HC Deb 25 February 1898 vol 54 cc32-131

I rise to make the following motion— That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair. I think it will be for the convenience of the House that I should state generally on behalf of the Government what our policy is in regard to the Army. We ask that a number of land forces, not exceeding 180,513 men, be voted for the year 1898–99. This number is larger by 21,739 than that voted by the House last year, and will make, with last year's addition, in all an increase on the establishment, as compared with two years ago, of over 25,000 men. It will be readily observed that that is the largest establishment this House has ever been asked to vote this century, except during periods of European war, and the greatest increase ever proposed to the British Army in time of peace. These facts alone would point to the necessity of a very complete justification of such a demand, and these reasons are accentuated by the considerable public discussion during the last few months, which made it perfectly evident that there is in the public mind considerable uneasiness as to the condition of the Army, and as to the possibility of any effective reform or improvement under existing conditions. Now, Sir, within the last few months the country has been told in letters of the largest type that we have got practically no Army at all, that our battalions at home are in such a state of collapse that a commanding officer's parade will only, under fortunate conditions, muster 100 men, that our Cavalry regiments at home have scarcely more than one horse for every two men, that our guns have not enough men and horses to move them about, that our home Army as a military organisation has ceased to exist, and that contrary to common-sense, and in direct defiance of the teachings of experience, we are maintaining a system which has absolutely broken down. That is not a general statement on my part, but the arguments that have been addressed to the country. These are quotations from speeches deliberately made by gentlemen who undertake to support them by fact. I look upon this as a heavy indictment, and the House will look upon it as a heavy indictment. If it be true, certainly those soldiers and civilians who for the last 10 years have directed the affairs of the War Office have a heavy reckoning in store for them. If, on the other hand, it is false, a grave responsibility rests upon those who put forward these statements and on those who accept them and then denounce and deride everybody who has come forward to speak on the other side. I stand hers to-night representing a Government who have no foregone conclusions to defend, and no predisposition for any system whatsoever. We had nothing to do with the establishment of short service, or linked battalions, or the territorial system, or deferred pay, or the Reserve, or any of the other machinations by which one or other of our critics have insisted that the War Office has destroyed the efficiency of the Army. We have nothing to conceal, and our only desire is to put the facts fully and fairly before Parliament, so as to enable the country to form a judgment on them. I will, therefore, ask the House for indulgence while I point out what the British Army is organised for, how far its strength falls short of its duties, what are the remedies we propose, and the means we intend to employ to carry them out. It has often been said that the organisation of our Army is unique. It must be so, because the duties it has to perform are also unique. Other nations organise themselves for home defence and for foreign invasion. Our Army, with a prodigious Frontier to defend, has to provide a force for possible large wars, and at any moment to carry on minor wars in every variety of climate, from the torrid zone to the snows of the Himalayas. Beyond this, whether in peace or war, the conditions of the Service are exceptional. No other nation maintains half its army abroad in time of peace, mainly in tropical climates; no other nation attempts to defend its own Frontiers without compulsory service, still less to protect Colonies and Dependencies covering more than 11,000,000 square miles; no other nation draws on its population for half the number of seamen and marines now enrolled by this country, and we, who are essentially a maritime nation, are thus forced to compete in the labour market with an admirable and highly popular Service, and have hitherto done so at a rate of pay exactly similar to that which the British man-at-arms received at the Battle of Agincourt. I do not suppose that Henry V. gave his soldiers any deferred pay, and possibly he did not show all the stoppages on his recruiting sheets. But, under the circumstances, I think the wonder should be, not that the Army is a few hundred men short of its establishment, but that we have 220,000 men serving with the Colours and 80,000 with the Reserve, or a total of 300,000 men; so that between the Army and Navy alone we have at this moment a total of 400,000 men serving the Crown, or a sixteenth of the whole male population between 18 and 40. But this is not all. If you bring together the recruits obtained for the Navy, the Army, the Militia, the Volunteers, and the Yeomanry, and assume their average age to be 18 you will find that, in every year, of Englishmen attaining the age of 18, one in every four enter Her Majesty's Service in one form or another. This is no inconsiderable national drain, and it should be remembered that while other nations, according to the number of their male population, have an ascertained contingent of recruits of the right age coming into their ranks with clockwork regularity, we have to attract recruits at an age when they have not yet entered on other walks of life, and we know that, at the moment of our sharpest difficulty a favourable turn of the labour market may rob us of 5,000 or 10,000 men. I therefore ask the House to recognise that, if there are shortcomings in our Army—and we admit there are shortcomings—they are in some degree to be accounted for by the exceptional conditions of our Service. Taking, then, the three contingencies for which our troops should be prepared, our organisation for home defence is familiar to the House. We put into the field, three Army Corps, or 112,000 men; we have 120,000 men in garrison; and we have reserve and auxiliary forces at stated points to the number (after making every reasonable deduction) of over 200,000 more. I will not labour this point of invasion, because it has been dealt with in the House on many previous occasions. I turn to the force for operations abroad. The force, which, if it ever be needed, we require to embark is 75,000 men. No such force has been put on board ship before by this country. It would be rash, therefore, until the experiment has been tried, to predict with confidence whether all contingencies have been provided for; but we can give the House full information with regard to the composition of the force. I have had the condition of the battalions and batteries of the first and second Army Corps taken on the 1st January last—an un-favourable date, as very heavy drafts have recently gone to India to replace the casualties in the North-West. For this purpose every reasonable deduction has been made from our effective strength. Except in the case of the tropics, we should embark men of over one year's service, who were genuinely 19 years of age; but seeing the doubt which exists as to ages, we have excluded every man under 20 years of age, and have deducted 5 per cent. for sick of those over 20 years of age. We have taken 15 per cent. off the Reserve, though on the occasions on which they have been called out all within 10 per cent have been found effective. I don't think we have erred on the side of unfairness. The result, after making these heavy deductions, and after the dispatch of heavy drafts, is as follows: As regards Artillery, the war establishment for horse and field batteries is 9,644. Towards this number we have only 3,280, or about one-third, in the ranks of the batteries which would have to go. The Army Reserve, with the deductions named above, furnishes 5,690, and we must consequently draw from the other 16 batteries left at home about 500 men, they, in return, receiving nearly 100 men per battery under 20 years of age. Having regard to these figures, the House will not be surprised that we have asked for an increase of the Field Artillery. As regards cavalry, we require 10 regiments, or about 5,000 men. These regiments, after deducting all untrained men, have over 5,000 men to draw from, without touching the Army Reserve at all, and in three cases only would Army Reservists be required. Taking the Army Reserves and effectives in excess of war establishment, 2,300 men belonging to these regiments would remain behind. We require 50 battalions of Infantry, of about 50,000 men. There are 21,500 men over 20 years of age serving in the ranks, and 28,500 are Army Reservists, belonging to these regiments. There will then be left behind to fill up the gaps of war, belonging to these 50 battalions, 5,500 men of the Army Reserve, 14,500 men of the Militia Reserve, or 400 men per battalion, not counting 10,500 immature soldiers left at the depôts. Be it observed that even with the exceptional number of battalions now abroad, we have beyond this 17 battalions, from whom not a man will be drawn, who, on the same basis, have 7,400 men with the Colours, and after being made up to war strength by 9,600 Reservists, have still 5,000 men in reserve without counting 3,000 young soldiers maturing at the depôts. We have come to this point, that the Cavalry, Infantry, and the two Army Corps can easily be made up without transfers from other corps; but an excessive proportion of Reserve men will be serving in some battalions of the Infantry which have been unduly depleted, and on these I will say a word presently. The state of the Artillery, having regard to the extra number of guns required for home defence, leaves much to be desired. The point on which I think we must concentrate our attention is that, if you do mobilise two Army Corps for foreign service you will mobilise them, I presume, with a view of encountering European troops, and you will not find any army in Europe which will have in its ranks, for the same number of men, the same number of troops actually serving with the Colours, and so small a proportion of the Reserve. This force of 75,000 men, in fact, contains less Reservists, and a larger proportion of men with the Colours, than any similar force of any foreign army when mobilised for war. I have gone into these figures in some detail, because so recently as the 4th February a Member of this House, whose statements meet with great credence and strong backing—the Member for the West Division of Belfast—stated, in the presence of several of the foreign military attachés, that— Our batteries were without men and horses, our cavalry regiments were in much the same condition, and to fill up the line batteries we should have to swallow up the Reserve, and men would have to be shovelled in from God knows where. I think, in justice to the Army, and in the interests of the country, that general statements of so alarming a character—sent broadcast over Europe by a gentleman of exceptional information—should meet with a detailed refutation. It will be noticed that all these computations rest, to a large extent, on the stability of the Reserve. So much has been quoted on this and other subjects that I do not propose to weary the House by citing the opinions of eminent officers on the subject. It is surely enough to say that every time Reservists have come up, either voluntarily or compulsorily, their numbers have been well accounted for; the men have fallen into their places rapidly, and every officer tinder whom they have served has testified to their efficiency. There are not wanting those who say that instead of enlisting boys, we had better keep the 80,000 Reservists in the ranks, who, like Lord Chelmsford, write of— Destroying batteries to create a Reserve which will not be wanted more than once or twice in a century. I can quite appreciate the feelings of those who like to see a fine regiment on the road in time of peace. But remember that to keep the present Reservists in the ranks would cost between £40 and £50 per man, or close upon £4,000,000 a year, and that it entails a huge pension charge for those who prolonged their service. And let those who think lightly of the Reserve consider what has been the British military experience of every big campaign during the past 100 years. We have always been unprepared, for we have never had a man to lay our hands upon to fill the ranks to war strength. In every campaign we have compelled our Generals to undertake operations with insufficient forces. For want of men we allowed Sir John Moore to be forced out of the Peninsula, and Wellington to be twice driven out of Spain. A month before Waterloo, at the zenith of his fame and a crisis of our history, the Duke of Wellington asked the authorities for 40,000 British Infantry. We left him to play his part with less than 30,000, though Parliament had voted over 190,000 men for the year. Our most recent European campaign tells even a worse tale. Under the system of long service and single battalions, the best we could do for that half-starved force before Sebastopol, whom we wantonly sacrificed by our deplorable unpreparedness, was to send out regiments which had already been robbed of all their best men to fill up the gaps at the front, and boys of 18, who died like flies In the face of all this I submit he will be a bold Minister who, in order to gain cheap applause and halve our recruiting difficulties and double the popularity of our home battalions, will come down here and preach the easy creed that an emergency which occurs only once or twice in a century need not be provided for. We are then brought to this point: we can, with the exception of artillery, mobilise the force required for home defence; and we can provide for a big war by means of our Reserve. But our case is that our present force at home is too small in peace to maintain the force abroad, and that in the case of our minor wars we have either to send composite battalions, which is the worst form of battalion, or to withdraw strong battalions from foreign stations and replace them by weak and immature battalions. Sending out composite battalions is, if a civilian may venture to speak on such a subject, the very worst form so far as our regimental system is concerned of meeting an emergency. The other method is strikingly illustrated at this moment in the Mediterranean, where every single Line battalion is either below its strength or contains an undue proportion of young soldiers. Indeed, it will be no exaggeration to say that at this moment there is only one single Line battalion which is of full strength, and most of them, or nearly all, contain a large proportion of men under 20 years of age. It is here that we fall short, owing to the undue strain to which our home battalions have been subjected for many years past, in providing for a much larger force abroad. It is for this that we come to Parliament for assistance. In regard to minor emergencies we shall meet the difficulty by offering to a number not exceeding 5,000 Infantrymen in their first year of service in the Reserve a special payment—1s. a day instead of 6d., which they now receive—to take part in them if called upon. We believe that this will meet the case, and that it will be very popular with the Army, and will be readily taken up. It will certainly secure for us men in that particular time of Military life when they have just left the Colours, and will entirely free us from all the anxieties under which we have laboured now for so many years in providing these forces which have to be sent to small wars. We are asking in addition, for a considerable increase of our home battalions. I will ask the House for a moment to follow these figures, and it will see in a moment the strain which has continued so long, and which ought to be remedied. But we have still to face the permanent overstrain of our home battalions. Our force abroad has been continually increasing. In 1870 we had 90,700 men abroad and 89,600 men at home. In 1880 we had 97,000 men abroad, and 91,800 at home. When we introduced the Estimates last year we had 117,700 abroad and 102,000 at home, the disparity having increased since 1870 by 14,600 men. Since February last year we have been subjected to an incessant strain. We have 20 battalions on the North-West Frontier calling upon us for increased drafts; we have sent two additional battalions and three batteries to South Africa; we have had to furnish three more for active service up the Nile—and may have to send more; and we have sent one to Crete. To do all this we have not called out a single man from the Reserve, and the fact that all these calls have been promptly met proves, I think, that there is some elasticity in our system, and it is not so paltry as some people imagine, and justifies the remark made to a British diplomatist, a few weeks ago, by one of the best Military judges in Europe— You English cry down your Army a good deal, but it is wonderful what it accomplishes. But the strain on our home Army has been immense, and the effect of it is shown in the statistics which I have undertaken to lay upon the Table. The first step, therefore, which it is necessary to take is to restore the proper balance between the normal of our battalions at home and abroad. We asked for three battalions last year. We ask for six more this year, and we undertake that, so long as the proportion of battalions abroad is in excess of that at home, special depôts will be maintained in order to supply them. Two battalions will be added to three of the existing regiments, giving them a four-battalion organisation similar to that which has acted so admirably in the case of the 60th and the Rifle Brigade, and which, therefore, we are not at all loath to follow. Now, Sir, I approach the great question. We are told that the condition of our battalions would be very different if, instead of sending drafts to the battalions abroad from the linked battalions at home, we had adhered to the former system of training recruits at depôts apart from the home battalions. I am glad the cheer is so faint, because I believe the proposition cannot be sustained by argument, and is one of those seductive principles which is very easy for those to propose who have not got the responsibility of carrying it out. I do not, of Course, mean in the slightest degree that there is not a great deal in the proposition; to keep every regiment in a watertight compartment, which can certainly be recommended on the ground of old association and historical interest. But what does the proposed change mean? You have at present in each regiment 940 men abroad and 720 at home, with a depôt of 50. If you are to keep the battalions distinct, unless you decrease the home battalions you must add to the depôt at least 400 men. No man is sent to India until he is assumed to be 20. The normal annual draft should not exceed 200 men, and, therefore, in naming 450 as the depôt necessary to supply it, seeing that the majority of the recruits are obtained at 18 and that there is a certain waste, 450 is the minimum number necessary. It makes no difference to the numbers whether you mass the depôts at a large centre like the Marine Depôt, or whether you train them separately. To do this for the 76 battalions maintained abroad means an addition of over 30,000 men to the Army, and a cost of close on £2,000,000 a year, equal to a penny on the Income Tax. How do you stand when you have incurred this heavy charge? You are the better in that your home battalion will stand on parade with 200 older men in it than your present recruits. What do you lose? You are the worse in that every man who goes to India will be less well trained than at present. I do not care what organisation you take—whether you take a large depôt or a small one—there is no man alive who can tell us that the training of a depôt is equal to the training of a battalion. You will have added enormously to your recruiting difficulties. Thirty thousand extra men would tax every resource; we are quite sufficiently occupied with getting the men now required already. You will, as before 1870, in bad recruiting years, have 200 men returning from a battalion abroad, and only finding 50 recruits at the depôt to replace them; you will break down whatever is good in the territorial system, and you will have 30,000 recruits and half your Reserve belonging to your battalions abroad contributing no cadre whatever for home defence. I think the balance of military opinion, of experi- ence, and of financial consideration is conclusively against the permanent adoption of the depôt system. I shall be told, no doubt, that I am ignoring sentiment and regimental feeling in this matter; that men dislike being transferred from one battalion to another; that officers, of whatever arm of the service, weary of the routine of training recruits who are not to remain permanently with them. There is no man in the House who will be less willing than I to ignore regimental feeling. Regimental feeling has done so much for us in the past that the man who ignores it must be altogether devoid of military instinct; but, at the same time, I think it may be over-stated. No one doubts that it is a blow to a man whose ancestor charged up the Mont Rave at Toulouse with the 42nd or 79th, to see either of those regiments parting with the men whom it has trained for the sake of any other battalion, however distinguished, But the welding of regiments together under a, common title has now been in force for many years—for the last 16 or 17 years. Officers pass from one to the other; men pass from one to the other. I believe they are something more than a mere collection of atoms, and I doubt whether there is any survivor of the old 75th or 92nd who did not feel he had a share in the feats of the Gordon Highlanders at Dargai, or would say that if the regimental number has gone the name has been an unworthy substitute. There is no doubt that our present system involves some sacrifice from officers. But our officers are not hard worked as the officers belonging to foreign armies are. It is well known that in foreign armies, where the men serve only for two years, the task of the officers is much harder than in our Army, and we have every reason to be proud of the spirit which our officers have shown in meeting the call and training men who may go temporarily to another battalion, but who are not lost to the regiment in war. There is a belief that on all these matters the staff at Headquarters and regimental officers are widely divided. If that be so the War Office must be a very demoralising place, for we find there that no matter how short a time it may be since an officer left his battalion, confidence in the existing system soon quenches his regimental doubts. It is natural that a man looking, as it were, over the whole field of battle, sees points which are lost to the man whose whole soul is wrapped up in the efficiency of his own unit. But you may ride the best horse to death. The man who has to work on system may be too rigid, just as the man who has to work on sentiment may be too elastic. Lord Lansdowne has been earnestly desirous to devise a bridge between the conflicting views. We must continue to feed India as well as we have done since 1870. Home battalions have their rights as well as their duties, and we must arrest the undue depletion of our home battalions. To do this we are going to take the following steps: we are proposing, as the House knows, to bring every battalion, by addition of 80 men, up to 800. The draft we calculate at 200. We propose to select it as nearly as possible from men in their second and third year of service, so that men beyond that term may remain permanently in the ranks of the battalion to which they belong. We intend so to regulate the size of the draft supplied by the battalion that the latter shall, after supplying it, still have a strength of not less than 600 non-commissioned officers and men. In ordinary cases it should be possible to foresee an abnormal demand before it has actually arisen, and prepare the home battalion to meet it, by temporarily adding to its strength. But if the draft to be taken would reduce the battalion below 600, the difference will have to be made up from other sources. Something may be done in cases which come suddenly upon us by offering inducements to men, who would otherwise go into the Reserve, to extend their service. It should be remembered that from the day our special Reserve for small wars comes into operation these abnormal demands which have so terribly depleted certain of our home battalions will cease. The emergency is, therefore, not likely to occur very soon. If it does, we shall meet it in one of the ways I have indicated. Cases may, however, arise in which the above steps may not prove a sufficient safeguard, and, in the last resort, rather than deplete the battalion, we may have to establish, outside the regimental organisation, a depôt or depôts as a reserve on which to draw for exceptional demands. When the arrangements which I have indicated have been fully carried out we believe that the main objections, which have been taken by the critics, to the linked battalion system will fall to the ground and absolutely disappear. Now, Sir, with regard to the Artillery and Cavalry. We shall deal with the Artillery in the same spirit. In 1893 the system of training recruits at the depôt was abandoned, and the system of training them at the batteries was substituted. The principle was good in that the man was better trained; but the result was bad, because the drain of trained men made the batteries at home insufficient. As part of our scheme of re-organisation, which I will allude to in a few moments, we propose to revert to the depôt system for the purpose of drilling Artillery recruits before they are posted to the batteries, and we provide in the Estimates for nearly 1,500 men with this object. But these men cannot remain at the depôts the whole of the two years which they may have to pass before they go abroad. They will be attached to batteries for training till they are fit to go to India. We shall keep eight batteries on the higher establishment, altogether free from training drafts, and 52 batteries on the lower establishment, and all that they will have to furnish will be some 20 men apiece. To do this they will have an establishment of 141; whereas, under the old establishment, I think the number was 110; and we intend that their strength, after the draft hag been supplied, shall never sink below 100 under any circumstances, and the system will so be worked as to avoid the necessity of denuding the battery of its specialists, if I may so term those who are essential to the efficiency of a battery. I think it will be recognised that we have gone a long way to meet the wishes of Gentlemen opposite in regard to this. Now, Sir, I come last to the cavalry. The cavalry scheme of last year has been very much criticised, and, I think, in many respects very unduly criticised. The fact that it involved transferring men from one regiment to another has eclipsed the two paramount objects achieved by it. The first is the procuring of six regiments upon the higher establishments, who are fit for service at a moment's notice; and the second is that of replacing the training of recruits for India at the Cavalry depôt by the more effective training at the regiments. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the facts of the situation. I am bound to point out what the process was the last time that we had to send a force of Cavalry abroad to Egypt, in 1882. At that time the three Cavalry regiments mustered 1,705 men, and we had to mulct other regiments of 614 horses and 458 men in order to fully equip them. You cannot have both things at once. If you do not keep your Cavalry regiments efficient in times of peace, you will find that you will have to make large transfers from one to the other in times of war. But the question of the training of the regiments must not be under-estimated. I know that, in a haphazard way, many gentlemen have discussed this point, saying that we did very well under the old system in which we sent Cavalry recruits direct to India. Sir George Luck, Inspector-General of Cavalry in India for five years, says that during the time he was Inspector-General not a single Cavalry recruit came out to India who was fit to take his place in the ranks for a year. If it is really true that you are training troops who are useless for the very place where they may be most needed, then I think you are bound to see if you cannot devise a more efficient system. We intend to limit very materially these transfers of men and horses, which have been necessarily heavy in the early stages of the scheme. In future the regiment on the higher establishment system with 670 men and 465 horses will train their own horses and men, and retain them. The lower establishment regiments will all be kept at 555 men, and will furnish a draft of about 90 men a year.


What about horses?


I think they will have 340 horses. The difference between the number of horses and men is not due to the slightest stinginess on the part of the War Office. I, like other civilians, have always found it difficult to understand why a Cavalry horse is not required for every man. But a number of men are withdrawn for other purposes, and there is nearly always a vacuum of 200 men between those who are able to groom horses and those who are otherwise employed; and a man cannot be properly drilled if he has more than one horse to groom. I think the House may take it that we are giving the cavalry regiments every horse that the regiments are willing to take. Moreover, we have a reserve force which will enable us to put them in the field without difficulty by introducing horses well trained for that particular work. Apart from other sources, which give us in all a reserve of 14,000 horses, we have 600 or 700 hunt horses on which we can put our hands in 24 hours, and they are the best Cavalry horses we can get. The position will be this, that the regiments on the Lower Establishment will furnish drafts as at present. But this draft of 90 men will not be taken haphazard from the regiment. Every man will be enlisted for the corps of Dragoons, Lancers, or the Hussars, as in 1893, but each regiment will have a nucleus of 350 men, and any man desiring to enlist for a particular regiment will, unless that regiment is full, be admitted to it, and will not be removed to another regiment against his will unless for urgent and exceptional reasons. We cannot, in case of a foreign war, or any emergency of that kind which might require the immediate removal of men from one regiment to another, lay down an absolute law; but in general, in an individual regiment, this rule will be scrupously observed, and any man who desires to join a regiment in India will be attached to a home regiment until he reaches a fit age to go to India, Lord Lansdowne believes that we shall thus attain the best, training with the minimum inroad on regimental sentiment, and I can hardly believe that those who support the Amendment placed on the paper by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean will, after this statement, believe that we, any more than they, contemplate the sacrifice of any one unit in order to secure the efficiency of any other. This year, besides these changes, we propose to make considerable alteration in the condition of a soldier's life. Apart from the Malta, Militia and the West Indian regiment, the increases of strength proposed last year and this year involve an addition of 23,000 men. Very grave, doubts have been expressed, and certainly intending recruits have not wanted for warning from some of our critics of the awful fate in store for them if they enter the net of the recruiting officer. I think, without going into the facts at this moment, that the recent improvements in the condition of a soldier's life—his comforts, his food, and his amusements—are so great that they really influence the soldier, and in no respect is that shown more clearly than in his desire to join the Colours after he has gone to civil life. To what is it that we look for obtaining our additional recruits? We place our faith not only in the changes which we are making, but also in the greater elasticity of the terms we are offering for the acceptance of intending recruits. We are proposing, first, an increase of pay to every man who, being an efficient soldier, can prove his age to be 19, or who is certified, by his commanding officer and the doctor to be fit to do a man's work, and to be, in their opinion and belief, of the age of 19. We desire to make a distinction between boys, or inefficient soldiers, and men who are fit for service, and I believe the principle of fixing an age in the case of those who are really efficient for duty and can be sent abroad will be an important factor, and will be a great advantage for the regiments. To give men 3d., or the free rations, looks a very small gift, but in point of fact it will add about 40 per cent. to what a soldier has to spend or save every week at present. In the case of the unthrifty soldier, of course, the saving will be little, and both thrifty and unthrifty will lose a portion of their deferred pay. An unthrifty soldier often spends in a few days what it has taken him seven or eight years to earn, while the thrifty soldier, who already largely uses the regimental savings bank, will, by saving about a penny a day, recoup himself for the loss. Consequently, a soldier leaving the Colours may be just as well off as he was before, if he chooses to exercise that amount of self-denial. Sir, the question of deferred pay is a very difficult one indeed. It has been debated over and over again in this House, and before Committees. There is no doubt that the balance of regimental opinion is against it. There is no doubt, on the other hand, that a large majority of those in the service who came up before the Committee spoke in favour of it, or sent letters to that effect; but, of course, there always is, on the part of a soldier, a belief that if the War Office takes something away from him he may not get anything to replace it. I am not sure that there is not some suggestion by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling, who takes sometimes a cynical view that is originated probably in the desire of the Treasury to put off a very heavy liability for seven years from the time that it was instituted.


It did not originate with any one connected with me.


Well, however that may be, one of the features of what we are proposing to do now is this: we have thought it better to give the soldier a more immediate benefit, and on leaving the Colours he will have the opportunity of earning 1s. per day for the first year of his Reserve service by joining the Reserve for small wars, the nature of which has been explained to the House, and on which I shall shortly present a Bill. The soldier will be a considerable gainer by the change taken in connection with the addition of 3d. a day at the age of 19. But, apart from money, we have been using the power we possess—and are continuing to use it—to obtain employment for Reservists after leaving the Army. We have secured from the Government over 2,000 posts a year, and we have also secured a still larger number from private employers. In order to put ourselves right with private employers we have gone into the whole question of the soldier's character, and we have abolished the old character. I quite admit that out of kindness to the soldier the old character was a most misleading document. It was held that if a man only behaved himself for six months he would gain a good conduct badge, and at the end of 12 months two good conduct badges, although he might have been imprisoned for various offences a short time previously. Now, we intend to abolish that. Of every discharge taken in future a full account can be furnished, giving a particular account of the man's character, and the number of convictions against him, if the em- ployer applies to our agency. It will also include a recommendation from the commanding officer as to what particular class of employment he is best fitted for. We believe that will be a great benefit in the future, if not immediately, for it will enable us to see which men are absolutely fit for service. To the same end we are going to try, at certain stations, the experiment of teaching trades to those soldiers who may desire to learn them during the winter months. As a further encouragement to enlistment, we shall open the door to men desiring to try a military life for three years. We do not propose to give a three-years' man full pay, unless he extends his services, which, at any moment, he will be able to do. The three-years' men must necessarily be limited in number, and be paid at a lower rate, unless or until they extend their services, for they do not accept the liability to go to India, and we could not be dependent for our drafts, amounting to 9,000 a year, upon possible extensions of service. It will be open to three-years' men at any time to extend their service, and thus improve their pay. We must watch the effect of these changes on the Reserve. We recognise that the Reserve was made for the Army and not the Army for the Reserve; consequently, until the Army reaches the new establishment, we have allowed men of good character to rejoin the Army from the Reserve without repaying the deferred pay, which they have earned. And I may say that, since this order was issued a fortnight ago, it has had an effect which I regard as almost extraordinary. Some 500 Reservists have already returned to the Colours, and among them four men who, to my knowledge, were earning over £1 a week in a Government Department. Consequently, Sir, I think that the popularity of the Army has still something to be said for it. I am sorry to say that some men, who were returning to their regiments, were waylaid by some of the constituents of certain right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who mistook them for a relief going to the assistance of strikers. They produced their documents, but without avail; and the Reservists, after a period in hospital, joined their regiments in driblets. We anticipate the best results from the greater elasticity given to the men in regard to the terms of service, and we are by no means averse to seeing a somewhat larger proportion of men extending their service in the Infantry, as is the case with the Artillery and the Cavalry. I may say as regards the increases sanctioned last year, that the strength of the Garrison Artillery has risen by over 1,100 since April 1st, the Cameron Highlanders have risen by 250, and the Guards by 800; thus fully realising up to date the expectations we gave to Parliament. The whole cost of these changes will be: immediately, £570,000, and when the normal is reached, £400,000; but we believe Parliament will not grudge the expenditure, seeing that it will be accompanied by a material improvement in the soldiers' conditions and prospects. Sir, I wish to say one word about the Militia. The Militia is considerably below establishment, but we are told that an impetus will be given to both officers and men, if expectation were held out of some prospect of service without a considerable improvement in the pay, or some form of compulsory service, we cannot expect to have any very largo increase in the Militia. But, in deference to resolutions passed by the commanding officers, and in recognition of the progress made by the Militia in the last few years, we propose to test the willingness of the Militia for further service. We shall accordingly propose, by a slight change in the Militia Act, to empower Militiamen to volunteer for general service in case of emergency, and, taking certain regiments in which a large proportion of the existing officers and rank and file desire to take this liability, we shall open recruiting only to those prepared to accept this additional duty. These men, when of the age for service, will, like the Militia Reserve, receive an extra £1 bounty annually, and the battalion will then be available as a battalion for service abroad. These battalions will receive extra training. As a further measure, with a view to drawing more closely together the Militia and the Line, and with a view also to making up battalions suddenly called abroad in time of peace, when the linked battalion is also abroad, we propose to offer to trained Militiamen of the same territorial regiment an addi- tional bounty to serve, if called upon, for a year or two years in the Line battalion, thus giving time for the additional strength to be made up by recruiting. We believe this will be popular with the Militia, many of whose men, without being willing to enter the Army, would gladly serve for a short period, while they would be only temporarily withdrawn from the Militia ranks. The Militia is very short of officers. It is clear that we cannot keep a full contingent of officers in this branch of the Service, by trusting to those who accept the Militia service alone. A considerable number of subalterns enter the Militia as a means of getting into the Army. The number of commissions given through the Militia is being considerably increased. This should go far to till the subaltern ranks, and we propose to exact from officers hereafter entering the Army, a liability, if they voluntarily leave the Army on a pension, under 20 years' service, to accept service for a limited number of years in the Militia, or lose a portion of their pension. This will give us a most valuable addition to the officers in the senior ranks.

*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

Will the option of that service be given to the officers now retired, on condition of the possibility of recall to service up to the age of 45.


I think something of that kind may be considered. If we put at the lower end of the scale men training for the Army, and in the higher ranks men who have army experience, we shall have gone a long way towards putting the Militia on a footing of competency. It will be impossible for me to close this long and, I fear, wearisome statement without a reference to the War Office system, which has been made so much the subject of attack. The War Office has many critics and but few friends. The British Army, as I have endeavoured to show, must always be a very complicated machine, and all the unpopularity incident to these complications has been focussed in the War Office. Lord Cardwell's reforms, vital as they were to the well being of the Army, disturbed prejudices and sentiment in many quarters, and left behind them a long trail of grievances, of which the War Office has been made the legatee. Subsequent changes have had the same effect. Reform is at all times unacceptable to those who are made the object of it, and reforms in the Army, which may be absolutely necessary for the good of the whole, are almost always carried out at the expense of the individual. On the other hand, services which are indispensable to efficiency add largely to the estimates, without making a friend for us outside Pall Mall. At the instance of the present Military chiefs, and in deference to their experience, we have asked Parliament, and with hardly a dissentient voice we have received, large sums for fortifications, for barracks, for manœuvring, etc., but these improvements give no contentment to any class in the Army. Fortifications, barracks, manœuvring grounds, the doubling of the Reserve, absorb millions without producing corresponding content in the Army. An eminent officer said to me recently— For every new barrack you build yon get the abuse of 800 men when you subsequently transfer them to a worse barrack. The same is the case with retired pay. We have done all we know to check the retired pay list. To keep the proper flow of promotion and to limit the ago of officers in the various ranks, we pension officers on rates which have raised the pension list of regimental officers by £500,000 in 10 years, but in nine cases out of 10 the officer retired compulsorily goes away dissatisfied, and the consequent promotions are taken as a matter of right. In all these matters the War Office has to steer between the Scylla, of Treasury control and the Charybdis of Parliamentary criticism. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, on whom we are calling for such large sums to create efficiency, is calling upon us, and rightly calling on us, to lop off every superfluity by which a saving can be made. We have been able to show him that, on the retired pay votes alone, a dozen operations took place between 1886 and 1892, which, as they come into working, will save the country several hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. On the staffs alone we cut down £20,000 a year, and we propose to carry these reductions further as opportunities arise. At this moment we see our way, with the full consent of the Commander-in-Chief, to amalgamate two of the existing district commands, and to dispense with certain minor appointments in the districts, and there is, I am glad to say, a continuous decrease of charge for the War Office itself, which will proceed more rapidly, as I propose to show. But every alteration you make in retired pay for the purpose of cutting down mulcts somebody, and every appointment you cut down creates a grievance, and that grievance is infallibly visited, not on military officers, who are as anxious for economy as we are, but on the civilian members of the staff, who have been the subjects of such picturesque language in the course of the last few weeks, and whom my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Essex would, to judge from his speeches, willingly see suspended from the lamp-posts in Pall Mall. The present system of the War Office requires amendment; but, before I go into the method we should like to apply, I ask the House to consider that there are two consenting parties to that amendment. In the first place, there is the Treasury, and in the second place, there are the Houses of Parliament. To make the system what it ought to be, we must have the concurrence of Parliament and of the Treasury, who are largely responsible for the faults which the system possesses. I trust I may be allowed to speak frankly on this subject without giving offence. Sir, the Treasury has immense control, and insists on a minute audit of all expenditure, and rightly so, in the public interest. No one defers more readily than I do to the system of the House of Commons' control, but I submit that control ought to be confined to the principles, and not to the details of Army government. The Committee of Public Accounts exacts from us a minute audit at the War Office of all our expenditure. This, though often trying to the soldiers, is in the public interest; but what I feel is not in the public interest is the demand daily and hourly made upon us that any subject in which a Member of Parliament takes an interest, should be reviewed by the Secretary of State himself. Every day, almost every hour, we have some Member coming to us and urging that we should get the Secretary of State to interfere in almost every detail of the administration of the Army. In the course of one week I was urged to secure Lord Lansdowne's personal intervention to avert the removal of a, band; I was pressed to enlist his sympathies in the promotion of a schoolmistress in a very remote command; I was asked to secure his intervention in the affairs of three or four private soldiers, who for domestic reasons wished to be transferred; and to get an officer to pay his tailor's bill. Lord Roberts, the Field Marshal Commanding in Ireland, made some investigations and settled the matter; but a demand was made upon me that I should get Lord Lansdowne personally to tackle Lord Roberts about it. The same occurs as to returns, which are called for in large numbers, which we are urged to make annual, and which cause immense labour, and continue to be rendered to the War Office for Parliamentary reasons, which may have long since passed away. The War Office, of course, gets the credit for the useless labour thus imposed on the district. Possibly other armies suffer similarly. The other day I saw a story which illustrates this, of a special piece of garden walk in one of the Russian palaces, which was always patrolled by a sentry. A year or two ago, some official looked up the records and found that over 40 years before, the then Czarina had noticed a certain flower on the grass plot, and to prevent the gardeners mowing it before it withered, a sentry was posted there for a few days. The place had been patrolled for over 40 years, although the emergency to be met had long passed away. Well, Sir, the fact that we have to account to the Treasury for every farthing, and may be called before Parliament for every trifle—I hope hon. Members will bear with me when I make these remarks—has had the tendency of multiplying these returns and references, and centralising every detail at headquarters, and the tendency has grown till it has become almost, a religion. Some efforts have been made to check it, and in the Quartermaster General's Department especially, a number of services have been committed entirely to officers commanding districts. Lord Lansdowne has determined to deal with the question as a whole, and he consequently appointed a Committee, over which I had the honour to preside, on which we had the assistance of three general officers most experienced in the work of the districts. The report of that Committee is in the hands of the Secretary of State, and I am authorised to say that its recommendation in the main meets with his approval. We have gone closely into all the details of work as between the districts and the War Office. We find a general officer in command of a district cannot discharge a recruit, or cast a horse, or permit a schoolmistress to marry without asking leave from the War Office. He cannot move a gunner from one branch to another; he cannot send a paymaster on leave; he cannot appoint a cook without the same authority; he has to give a rigid account to the War Office of every bolt he supplies to a rifle, and every repair he makes to a gun. If he orders straw hats for a working party to avoid sunstroke, he is called over the coals; if he allows a funeral to cost more than £2 he is called to account; if he hoists a flag of the value of 1s. 4d. he may have to undergo six months of interrogatories; and if he sends a child of tender age to a school other than a distant Army school, he is brought to book. We hold, Sir, that these restrictions are both out of date and uneconomical. The effect of this system has been to deprive general officers and their staff of initiative, to cramp their experience, to remove inducements to economy, and, which is perhaps far the most important, to withdraw them unduly from their military duties and the training of the troops. Sir, we propose to put an end to these drawbacks. Our Report has only just been submitted to the Secretary of State, and I am not able, nor would it be desirable, to pledge myself in detail as to the action which will be taken upon it. But I am able to say that Lord Lansdowne has every intention of giving effect to our recommendations by conferring on the general officers commanding a larger measure of responsibility for the affairs of their districts, and by relieving the War Office, so far as may be possible, of superfluous duties. I may remind the House that when the present Government took office, the Secretary of State, giving effect, I believe, to the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman), and following the general policy laid down by the Hartington Commission, took a considerable step in the direction of decentralisation by placing the Adjutant General, the Quartermaster General, the Inspector General of Fortifications, and the Inspector General of Ordnance, in a position of greater independence with regard to the business of their several departments. We are prepared to proceed farther in this direction. We propose to relieve the Adjutant General of the supreme arbitrament in trivial cases; and the Treasury is prepared to join with us in giving larger financial powers to general officers. By this, I mean that in future the general officer shall exercise a real control in his district, that he should have larger financial powers both in buildings and other classes of expenditure; that he should be given greater freedom as to stores; that he should superintend the works which are executed in his district; that he should control the contracts for forage and supplies; and that he should have a voice in the selection of the drafts for regiments abroad, so that he may be able to safeguard the units under his command from undue depletion. And we also see our way to make a large reduction in the number of returns and reports, one of which alone entailed 1,500 letters in a year, and others of which, involving voluminous entries, could be rendered annually instead of monthly. By these means we hope to free the general officer and his staff from unnecessary correspondence, and to free the War Office from unnecessary labour. And beyond this, we accept the principle that extravagance cannot be corrected by stinginess, and that the only way to produce economy is to give responsibility. We further propose to relieve the War Office by decentralising the organisation of the Royal Artillery, which, although amounting to nearly 40,000 men, has hitherto been administered as one regiment in Pall Mall. We propose that it should be broken up for the purposes of administration into smaller units. This is a step which has long been in contemplation, and which will obviate a multiplicity of formal references. We have already commenced the decentralisation of clothing, and it is noteworthy, as illustrating the necessity of not waiting for the emergency to send supplies, that of 1,800 bales sent off to nine different stations on the same day, and this in a time of peace, within three days all had been delivered, even as far off as Galway, except those sent to a town so near to London as Guildford. Why that was so, perhaps the South-Western Railway Company may be able to explain. I come now to the last point of all. Many of our present difficulties and delays are due to the mass of correspondence between officials, whether at the War Office, and within 200 yards of each other, or in the districts, many of which could be settled vivâ voce in a few minutes. As long ago as 1861, Lord Herbert, then Secretary for War, noted this, defect, and drew up a minute on the subject of more frequent meetings and less writing; but, possibly owing to the work of the War Office being carried on in seven or eight distinct buildings, it has never been remedied. By substituting interviews between officials for written dialogues, we believe that questions which take a fortnight to settle could very often be completed in a single morning. I believe, Sir, that the removal of these delays will do more almost than anything else to restore the confidence which ought to be felt in the War Office. By steps such as I have indicated, we believe that it will be possible not only to ensure greater promptitude in the transaction of business, but also to remove much of the friction which now arises upon small and insignificant points. It is, in Lord Lansdowne's belief, most important that such friction should not exist, and that there should be no want of confidence or sympathy between the personnel of the Army and the administrators, between the regiments and the districts on the one side, and the War Office on the other. Lord Lansdowne fully recognises the importance of maintaining an intimate connection between the headquarters Staff and the Army, and the great advantage which officers rising to high administrative posts cannot fail to derive from regimental experience. I may mention that the recently appointed Quartermaster General, Sir George White, is an officer who served over 30 years in a regiment, and has never been employed in the War Office in his life. But this improved method of communication is one of the best securities you can have, that the administration of the War Office will be acceptable to the Army. I think, Sir, it is desirable that I should now sum- marise the effect of all these changes. For Home defence we shall have enough Regulars completely equipped with artillery at the rate of five guns per 1,000 bayonets and sabres for our three Army Corps. For minor emergencies we shall be able to send a force of 10,000 men without calling out the main Reserve or transferring men from one unit to another. For a large war our two Army Corps will be complete. To meet the annual drafts for the force abroad we shall never reduce a battalion below 600; a Cavalry regiment below 350; a battery below 100. We draw the Line and Militia more closely together, and give the Militia a great stimulus to efficiency. We improve the position of the soldier with the Colours, and his prospect of employment on retirement. We intend this year, for the first time for 26 years, to train the troops by large manœuvres, which are to take place next August in Wiltshire and Dorsetshire; and we purpose, at a great saving, as we hope, of time, labour, and friction, to give, generals commanding districts in time of peace some of the responsibilities they will have to undertake in War. We believe, further, that by a large devolution of business we shall save the public time, free the War Office for its more important duties, and bring the districts more in touch with the Executive. Sir, these proposals will have a far-reaching effect on the Army. They introduce modifications into the existing system which nullify those evils of which the system has been made the scapegoat. But if they are not regarded as a panacea for all the varied demands made upon us, it should be remembered that Army administration in this country is not an exact science. If you insist upon a faultless machine you must come to conscription. Short of this, you can find fault in every system. I urge those critics who come after me, and who speak with so much knowledge, to study these subjects themselves; not to rest satisfied with criticising our proposals, but to grapple with the difficulties with which we have had to deal. For very many months past we have given ourselves and strained every nerve we possess to sifting divergent proposals, whether put forward publicly or privately, and to deciding between conflicting opinions, not fear- ing responsibility, nor grudging labour, if only we could present to Parliament a permanent settlement of this prolonged controversy. To this end we have freely considered the opinions expressed and recorded by eminent soldiers in and out of office. These proposals are not merely the proposals of the War Office, but they have been carefully considered item by item by the Committee of the Cabinet charged with National defence, and we bring them forward on our responsibility as the Government of the day. I have only one thing to add, Sir: we do not deprecate criticism; we are quite prepared, if necessary, to meet censure. We trust that Parliament will debate these questions to the full, but we trust also that, as the result of these discussions, Parliament, will register a final decision upon them. It is imperatively necessary, we hold, to arrest the tendency to denounce the whole military fabric, because some details of it are imperfect. The result of these increases in placing our establishments on a proper basis, cannot be completely felt under a period of three years. You cannot carry out these changes, nor bring your regiments up to their efficiency, nor train your artillery within less than that period of time. I submit to the House that nothing could be more destructive of the best interests of the Army, and nothing more unjust to the executive who administer it, than that, for the whole of that period of three years, not merely those officials who are responsible to Parliament—for that is the least part of it—but the military heads of the Army, those responsible men who would have to lead our troops in the event of war, should be exposed to the cross-fire of criticism and denunciation, which is unavoidable while every Army question is in the melting-pot. Sir, so far as we are concerned, we have not come lightly before Parliament on this matter. Our proposals are dictated by a profound conviction that they are essential to the national safety, and we look with confidence for an impartial verdict upon them to the House of Commons.


I rise to move the following amendment— That no scheme for the re-organsation of the Army will be satisfactory which involves the sacrifice of one unit to secure the efficiency of any other. There was, Sir, a very curious difference between the first and the last part of the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman. In the last part of his speech he gave away the whole case of the War Office. I will ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to kindly give me his attention for a moment, as I wish to refer to two remarkable speeches he has made. The last words of the right hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary alluded to the critics, the severest critics of the War Office, and appeared to charge those critics with saying what has been best said in the most powerful manner on two occasions by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Under Secretary has vouched the Chancellor of the Exchequer as being, on the whole, as a Member of the Cabinet, in agreement with the proposals that are here made. But if the right hon. Gentleman can claim the Chancellor of the Exchequer as being, as it were, in his collective capacity, satisfied with these proposals, it is on the one hand an admission that the need for an absolute change of system has been established, and, on the other hand, a claim that the present proposals are the best way of mending that system. I see that one of the representatives of the War Office is attempting to throw a little doubt on that statement, but there is no doubt about it, and I am prepared, if necessary, to read the material portions of the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the House, justifying to the full the language I have used. Now, I say there is an absolute difference between the first part and the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. In the last part of his speech he alludes to those of us who, for years past, have advocated in similar language those reforms which he is going to introduce; but in the first part of his speech he seemed to attack some imaginary persons who have made criticisms of the system to which Army reformers in this House have never committed themselves. Now, Sir, I was relieved to find, after the right hon. Gentleman had defended the short service system so far as it exists—it does not exist to the degree which we would establish—that it was Lord Chelmsford, who was wanted in the House. I have never heard Lord Chelmsford put forward as one of the reformers, and I cannot but think that the right hon. Gentleman was trying to throw a certain amount of prejudice against those who had advocated Army reform in this House, by mixing them up with some gentlemen, who must be described as old fogeys, who are opposed to a particular short service system. Now Lord Chelmsford was quoted by the right hon. Gentleman. It appears that Lord Chelmsford has been attacking the short service system, but our complaint always was, and is, that we have no true short service system at the present time. Many of us desire to introduce the three, or even two, years' system as the system to be followed for the bulk of the Army of ibis country, for the whole of the troops at home, and the right hon. Gentleman himself knows as well as I do that it is the Indian difficulty which alone prevents a far wider application of the shortest system of service. Well, now, Sir, I see there are, at this present moment, proposals made to the House by the Government to further lengthen the service by further departing from the true short service system. The bringing back of men from the Reserve is, in effect, a lengthening of ser vice, a diminution of the Reserve, and a departure from the system which the Under Secretary supports. The right hon. Gentleman, in the first part of his speech, denied the breakdown of the present system, which was admitted in the autumn by the Secretary of State himself, who used the word "breakdown." when he said that he would examine the causes of such partial breakdown as had occurred. The Under Secretary quoted Lord Wolseley as having reassured the country, and even the War Office, by telling them that they could despatch two Army Corps abroad. Of course, when we remember that there are 80,000 men in the Reserve, some sort of Army Corps, putting aside the question of Cavalry and Artillery, to which I will presently refer, can be despatched at once. There is clothing and there are arms sufficient, but the two Army Corps which would immediately be ready would not form an Army in the sense in which every other country possesses one. Two Army Corps! When it is 20 Army Corps which this country pays for, something like 20 Army Corps, towards which large sums are contributed by this House! There are men enough at home of one sort or another, including the Volunteers—upon whom £1,000,000 a year is spent. Such is the normal cost of the excellent Swiss Army. Out of the men at home, if Cavalry and Artillery were provided, 20 Corps instead of two Corps might be made. Our complaint has always been that out of this enormous number of men the War Office has never been able to make an Army. The right hon. Gentleman attacked those who, he said, were going to win "cheap applause" by making proposals with regard to keeping Reserve men in the ranks. We have never made any such proposals. We killed that proposal two years ago, when the Government carried it through the House of Lords, and made it to the House of Commons. And it is the Government who are making it once again at the present time. Another point which amazes us in the right hon. Gentleman's speech is the conflict between his figures and the figures of the memorandum, and the figures which Answers recently given to Questions in the House, have revealed. How is this conflict explained? How is it cleared up to-day? The Secretary of State in another place said that up to the present there had been no difficulty in keeping the Army full. Last year the House voted an increase of nearly 8,000 men, of whom nearly 3,000 were to be raised in the year. But, although the cost of the Army has been increased, there has been no increase in its numbers. On the 1st of January this year there were 131,823 men in the Regular Army, and on the 1st of January last year 132,626, so that there was a considerable falling-off in the year, although the increase had been voted and paid for by this House. When we try to reconcile these figures with the curious figures which are given in the memorandum, we fail to find the explanation, but it has been provided here to-night, when the right hon. Gentleman has explained that within the last month the Government have been most successful in bringing back Reserve men to the ranks, and so filling up the numbers. That is a departure from the system; it is no increase of the war numbers of the regular Army that you planned. We cannot but admit, in spite of the reassuring statement, that, in the words used by the Secretary of State for War in the Recess, the recruiting has broken down. Now, Sir, there is another very curious fact to notice. In the last three years the cost of the Army has been considerably increased, and there has been an increase in numbers voted. Yet there has been a decrease, not only in the Militia, but also in the regular Army, and in the Army Reserve as well, during that period—an additional evidence of breakdown. The Government now come to the House with proposals which go a great deal farther in the direction of the reforms for which we have long been asking than did their makeshift proposals of last year. The question of how the House ought to receive the proposals made, must depend on what is elicited in the course of the Debate. No reason has been given for the adoption of a three years' term. It is no doubt a term adopted in several foreign armies, but it is longer than the term adopted in the German Army, and, considering the greater military aptitude of the races of which the United Kingdom is composed—the greater military aptitude admitted by the Germans themselves—I should have thought that the two years term, which is enough for the creation of the magnificent German Army, would be sufficient for our experimental service. The Secretary of State has said that the object in view is to initiate a system under which a soldier can try the military life without committing himself to it for good. That two years' term would amount to that initiation, and would give the country a great Reserve. We talk about short service, and the Government accuse their opponents of trying to get rid of it, which is grotesque. We have never had a short service system, for a seven years' system, which becomes eight years when a man, as is usually the case, is discharged in India, is called long service by every other people. Our system is a hybrid system, too long for the home Army and for the Reserves; too short for the interests of India, and adopted against the wishes of the Indian Government. Now, this matter of India deserves attention. A question was asked here yesterday by one of the Members for Aberdeenshire, as to whether the Indian Government had been consulted, and as to the additional charge on India. I have discussed it with a high authority, who tells me that the matter has been under discussion, although we were told nothing yesterday; that the Indian Government will be forced to largely increased allowances, and that the ultimate cost of the proposed charges to India will be very large—£400,000, when they come fully into operation—and this just at a moment when the people of India can little afford that increase. As for the clear shilling a day, if it is to be indeed even now a clear shilling—the clear shilling of Agincourt, the right hon. Gentleman told us—I doubt whether it will have much effect upon recruiting in rural districts—I am told by non-commissioned recruiting officers that the recruits think they get this sum at the present time. They are not now wilfully deceived by the Government; they were at one time wilfully deceived. I believe the late Mr. Fawcett, when he was Postmaster General, brought the system to an end by refusing to post up the War Office bill which contained promises which he had reason to think were untrue. However that might be, the point is that the men believed that the conditions were better than they are, and that it is not certain that the increase will bring the men. Moreover, the three years' men are not to get the advantage of the increase of pay. The Government are proposing a plan under which men of the same full military age, enlisting together side by side in the same barracks, doing the same work, will get two different rates of pay. This is hardly trying the three years' system under fair conditions. It has existed in the brigade of Guards, but then there has been no difference in the rates of pay, and the Government are basing themselves upon the success of the Guards' example. It is all very well to pay boys as boys, in the phrase of the hon. Member for Belfast, adopted by the Secretary of State, but this is a case of under-paying men of full age who are serving side by side with others better paid. It will be wise, I think, for the Government with regard to the men over 19, to revise their proposal, and to get the consent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pay all men at the same rate, including those who enlisted for three years' service, whether they are proved to be over 19 years of age or not. Is the three years' proposal made with the bona-fide intention of carrying it into effect on a large scale? Or is it made to buy our votes, to get the support for the Government proposals of a certain school of Army reformers, who, as I do, ask for short service at home and long service for the Indian Garrisons. Now, Sir, we have not been told to what extent this elasticity of enlistment is going to be carried.


I did not desire to conceal that from the House. As a matter of fact, we propose that 100 men per battalion should be enlisted for three years' service.


Well, I will say frankly that this satisfies me as a beginning, especially if the change should be accompanied by the same rate of pay for all men over 19, and if the Government avoid their present idea of putting on them a badge of inferiority which is not, I believe, really calculated to induce them to extend their service. Now, Sir, in the first portion of his speech the right hon. Gentleman defended the "arks of the covenant," the territorial system, and linked battalions. The territorial system here can never be anything more than a sham so long as we have to provide for India and garrison coaling stations, and so long as the battalions are constantly moved about. Our territorial system is a bad copy of the German system, but in Germany the battalion, the brigade, division, corps, are all at home in the midst of their stores and of their Reserves. Here there is nothing of the kind, and our system is the system which broke down in France in 1870. The territorial regiment is hardly ever in its territorial district. The Reservist joining has to travel to find his equipment, and to find his battalion. Alone of all the Powers we have not, and we cannot have, any brigade, division, corps. Then, with regard to the linked battalion system, here again, it is India which causes the difficulty, as it causes every other difficulty of our system. And we, Sir, who belong to the advanced school of reformers, believe that we shall never have a satisfactory Army, or a cheap Army, until we get rid of the Indian reliefs, and provide for India in a different fashion. The right hon. Gentleman is not so much departing from the system of linked battalions as trying to work it more smoothly, reverting to some of the original ideas of Lord Cardwell. Well, now, of course, it is useless for us to ask the Government to throw the whole system into the melting pot. But let the House, if it opposes our views, fairly understand what those views are. What the most advanced school of military reformers in this country believe, is that you will never get a satisfactory Army at home until you get rid of your Indian reliefs, and put them on a better footing. The Government now propose a step which points in that direction, and which will make that great change easier when we reach, as we shall reach, a still more complete breakdown of the old system. The Government are doing a good deal to meet our views, but there has been no exaggeration in our statements. No exaggeration has been alleged here tonight, but we are guilty perhaps of understatement; we have called attention only to the condition of the battalions abroad? The late Secretary of State for War (Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman) told his constituents in Scotland that though the system wrecked oar battalions at home, it provided magnificently for India, which was our chief need. Yes, for India; but how about South Africa? We know from a question which I recently put within these walls, the condition in which battalions for South Africa go out. We treat the Cape and the Mediterranean as home stations, yet fever is dangerous in them to the boys, and at the Cape, at least, there are conditions in many instances which make it possible that at any moment the battalions sent out may be called upon to fight. And yet the question I asked here the other day brought out the condition in which the Royal Berkshire sailed for South Africa in the Avoca last week. The Under Secretary told us that there were in that regiment between 400 and 500 men with less than one year's service—I did not ask about their age, because we know only what they choose to tell us—and of that number of men there were nearly 200 who were raw recruits, with less than six months' service, with no knowledge of the rifle, which they hardly know how to handle, let alone shoot. That regiment went to South Africa in a condition disgraceful to the country which sent it out, and disheartening to its commander, and to the officers who have to do with it. This, of course, is a condition of affairs out of which, in easily conceivable circumstances, disaster at any moment might arise. With regard to the condition of the units generally which are aimed at in my Resolution my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Evesham and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Glamorganshire will be able to give much information to the House. The Member for Glamorganshire has carefully examined every regiment of cavalry in the country. Two of us examined the case of every battalion of infantry in the country, and several of us are well acquainted with the condition of the artillery. The strongest case and the clearest case to make to a layman is the case of the artillery. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has put me in a certain difficulty, because he has entirely given up in the frankest way the case of the artillery. He has absolutely admitted the whole of our case upon this point. He has given up, I say, the case of the artillery, and concedes the truth of everything we have said with regard to that branch of the service. But I fear that I must ask the House to consider that admission. Here is a War Office, which for generations has been trusted by the House of Commons, which has given it everything that it asked for. The Peace Party—and I speak more particularly of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Cockermouth Division—though they do not like it, would themselves admit that everything that the War Office chose to ask for they could have had at any moment. We have year by year made our statements with regard to the artillery to the House. Nobody believed a word we said, and it was only last year, when three batteries were sent out to the Cape, and when 20 batteries were wrecked in men and horses to provide them, that the War Office at last admitted that we had all along been right. The Under Secretary now tells us that the scale adopted last year was too low—four guns for 1,000 men. Well, everybody who is acquainted with the subject knows that, and said that for years. They now adopt five guns per 1,000 men. The actual proportion which exists in the French and German Armies is very nearly six. I have myself seen at manœuvres 127 batteries of Artillery with four corps. Trained horses, too, are essential to the efficiency of artillery. But they had been allowed to fall off in an extraordinary degree. In 1878 there were just over 6,000 trained horses in the artillery at home; in 1897 there were 4,276. In that period our effective artillery have so much decreased, but the regular Army has been increased. The Reserves have almost been brought into existence. The Volunteers have grown in efficiency in every other point. The artillery have fallen off. We have told the Government year after year that there is no artillery at all for the Militia or the Volunteers, and that without these those two services are not efficient. The right hon. Gentleman said last year that although the Militia had no artillery, the Volunteers had 180 guns, which were capable of manœuvring and fully mobile. I do not wish to use unparliamentary language about that statement. These are old 16-pounders, which are hardly seen by the regiments to which they are supposed to belong. There are occasionally horses hired for the occasion. It is ridiculous to contend that in a military sense these guns exist, and if we are to conceive the Volunteers ever repaying, with security to the country against panic, the million a year which is spent upon them it is essential that they should be provided with artillery, of which no trace exists. The three batteries which were sent last year to the Cape drew 272 horses from 20 other batteries, and drew 189 men, though, according to the Regulations, they should have drawn 27. The right hon. Gentleman told us that we have a reserve of horses, but they are not horses trained to guns, and when the Government talk of suddenly putting two Army corps on board ship, fully equipped, it is only upon horses actually serving that they can depend, and not upon this horse reserve. Year after year we have brought forward this subject of the artillery. Mr. Stanhope decreased the artillery. The Member for the Stirling Burghs came down and told us that he had good news for us, and was going to increase it, and the increase consisted of that demolition of its depôt which the Government deplore, and in their present proposals are going to upset. The present Government last year did almost worse, for they increased the artillery by a single battery, on the pedantic ground that now they will have enough for three corps—corps which are imaginary in themselves—and enough upon a proportion which they this year admit to be wholly insufficient. The Government have told us nothing of their proposals with regard to the Horse Artillery. I gather from the Estimates that they are going to partially undo what Mr. Stanhope did, and to increase the Horse Artillery. Now, the right hon. Gentleman talks about the development of the Artillery. The plans he formed would require 8,000 trained horses for the Artillery in time of war to be drawn from the Reserve. The trained horses of military at his disposal are exactly 2,000, which means that in time of war, in order to complete our Horse Artillery for service, we should have to draw three horses out of every four from our untrained Reserve. That is not a condition in which this country ought to be. It is proposed to increase the Artillery. Well, I hope they will be sufficiently provided with horses as to give us, at all events, something better than we get under this wretched system. If they are going to establish a new system, to restore something like the large depôts, I hope in the course of this Debate we shall have some information with regard to the number of trained horses which are proposed to be kept in reserve. In the case of the re-creation of these depôts, and as to the increase of the Horse Artillery, no statement appears in the memorandum, and I only gather that from a perusal of the Estimates which have been laid upon the Table. Well, as regards the Artillery, the whole question is given up. I now come to the Cavalry, the general question of which I will leave to the hon. and gallant Member for South Glamorganshire, but I will say this: that when I asked what was the number of horses in cavalry regiments on the new lower establishment, I was told it was 340. I do not believe that statement. I fancy it is fewer. But I would ask the House to consider for a moment whether you can have cavalry training which is worthy of the name under those conditions and in regiments of that sort where the full number of horses are not kept up. The right hon. Gentleman had said that in the case of foreign cavalry the full number of horses could not be kept up, and, of course, that is so; but they now have some 600 or 700 for each regiment, and keep up the strength of their regiments as they go into the field every day for ordinary drill. We cannot drill satisfactorily under the present conditions. The system is an anomaly, and cannot be any real success. With regard to the proposals as to the Reserve, I will say only this: all will depend upon the way the system is managed which you are going to establish. There is the increase to the length of service which might prejudice recruiting, and may undo some of the good which we hope will result from the new system. We shall have to carefully consider the details in the House. The cost of your proposals is known; the increase in efficiency which will be maintained is more a matter of doubt than the cost. We do not yet know how much loan money we are spending on the Army at the present time, and I will assume that it is equal only to that of past years. But it will be greatly exceeded because of the Military Works Bill which comes into force in the present year. The accounts show an increase for the Army at home of nearly £1,200,000, and an increase for the Army of India, of £1,350,000, in addition to the expenses of the war which is going on in India now, and in addition to all new expenses which may be thrown upon her during the present year. Now, the military expenses at home and in India will probably reach a sum of £41,000,000, and when you consider the military expenses of the British Empire, you have to add those of the Indian and Colonial Offices, and of the self-governing Colonies as well, and, in all probability, the cost will exceed £43,000,000. The Army expenses of the present year will be vastly greater than those of any other Power upon its defence, taking both their land and naval forces into consideration. The Power that finds itself next to us is France, which spends, without any increase, about £40,000,000 sterling upon its defence. Our expenses on land forces and fixed defence, without the Navy, will be about £43,000,000, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will ask, as he asked last year and the year before, whether we get a full return for our expenditure. Now, while there is this enormous cost, and while vast increase is taking place, we have had up to the present time a decrease in numbers. On the 1st January 1897 the Army, Reserve, and Militia numbered nearly, 409,000. On the 1st January this year the numbers have fallen to 404,000. Now the stationary condition of the Army is caused by the stationary condition of the recruits. The real question is whether the improved conditions of recruiting which you are going to offer to the men, and the elasticity of the new system which you are going to introduce, will enable you to tide along until such time as a measure somewhat more revolutionary in its character, which some of us advocate, shall be necessary. Now, it is not the case that this increased expenditure is caused by the extension of the British Empire, as is the opinion of some, because if you look at the recent extensions of the Empire you will find that no very great demand has been made upon the military authorities in connection with it. If you take the rest of the world outside India you will find there has been a decrease and not an increase for a good many years. At one time we had a large number of troops in Canada, and at another in Australia. At other times we had a large number of troops in New Zealand, Shanghai, Yokohama, and other places, where we have not now a single man. It is a mistake to suppose that the recent extension of our Empire has anything to do with this expenditure. No doubt we are looking forward to a time when we may have to go to war, which, in the opinion of some people, is the cause. But we shall never have a cheap Army and a good Army upon which we can draw in time of war until we can rid the home Army of the reliefs for India and the coaling stations. My right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for War (Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman) has expressed an opinion which is shared by the Secretary of State for India and others who hold high office in the Army and the Navy, and I hope that by pegging away we shall gain some ground. It is that the Navy should garrison the coaling stations with Marines. On this occasion we see some results, in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to-night, of our action in the past. In moving this Resolution, I merely say with regard to the larger question that I accept the statements of the Government in the hope that the elasticity which they have introduced may gradually produce the result which I anticipate myself may flow from it.

*MR. H. O. ARNOLD - FORSTER (Belfast, W.)

I think I must respectfully tender my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman who has addressed us to-night, upon the lucid manner and the good temper in which he has made the important statement which he has made. The first impression upon my mind, I confess, was that what we have been urging for so many years has now commended itself to the War Office, and has found expression in the statement we have listened to to-night. I am, however, not so grateful perhaps as I ought to be, because I feel that these promised reforms of the War Office ought to have been performed years ago, and ought not now to be considered meritorious. I think they ought to be so entirely as a matter of course. I may perhaps be allowed to recapitulate them. I notice we have now conceded the three years' system, and to a limited extent we have conceded free rations to the soldier, and we have had conceded the restoration of the depôts of Artillery, against the abolition of which we have long protested. We have seen a large addition to the Artillery at least promised. The reason given for that by the right hon. Gentleman does not meet the case; still, so far as it goes, we will not quarrel with it. We welcome the abolition of deferred pay, and we welcome the information that the Militia will be employed abroad under certain circumstances. We are glad to see that the Cavalry scheme is, though not to be abolished, to a certain extent is to be modified, and we are glad to see there is to be a rearrangement in the War Office, which I certainly trust will produce the fortunate consequences which the right hon. Gentleman believes it will. But first impressions are not always the safest, and we must take the facts as we find them. Now, there is one fact which no one more than myself deplores, and that is that military officers who are on active service are practically debarred from taking part in this controversy, and they cannot give us their assistance upon the point. Therefore it devolves on persons like myself to do what we can, and to voice so far as we can the views of the officers serving in the Army so far as we know them. Now, I have made it my duty during the last ten years of my life, to see as much as I could with my own eyes and to learn as much as I could from both officers and men as to what their views were, and I presume to state those views. I am trying faithfully to represent the views of a large body of officers of all branches of the Service. I think enough has been said in the House to-night, to enable the House to take a very impartial view of this matter. We have heard the right hon. Gentleman to-night who represents this great public Department, but we must remember that the War Office has in this matter a tradition which is not to be disregarded, not to be forgotten. It is not an intellectual creation which goes its way with a fixed purpose in view, and able to disregard the interruptions or cavils of outsiders. We have already had some intimation of that to-night. We have already learned that the dictum of the War Office is sometimes fallible, and I do want to press upon the right hon. Gentleman, who has spoken in the moderate and lucid way that he has, that he must remember that we have in years past been asked to accept certain conclusions as the deliberate opinion of the War Office, and we were told then almost in the same words, on the same, grounds, and possibly by the same authority, as we have been told year after year, that we were to accept them as something essential to the welfare of the Army. We have been told that the term of service ought to be six years, and we have seen six, seven, eight, twelve, and three all tried in succession. We have seen them tried alternatively and simultaneously, and to every one of those periods of service we have been asked to give our approval. We are now told that the Artillery is to be increased by a certain number of men and guns, and that that will solve the question of the Artillery. We can all remember when Infantry soldiers were being I might almost say "kicked," out of the battalions and were being forced, by hook or by crook, into the Reserve. That is what we have to expect. Now, there is another matter. Nothing particular has taken place in the interval excepting that the system has gone on, as a matter of course, and has failed, and now, by hook or by crook, attempts are being made to bring back men into the Infantry battalions at any cost, in order to make up the deficit that exists. I notice the concession with regard to deferred pay. In this matter of the abolition of deferred pay, we were told that, in the last few weeks, it was so important an institution to the Army that the question of its retention had been referred to no less than 40,000 men, and the War Office told us that 32,000 men out of the 40,000 had given their opinion in its favour, and we were told to accept that as conclusive. We did not accept that as conclusive. But it is worth noting that that was the one proposal in which the opinion of the rank and file has been asked, and their opinion has been absolutely disregarded. Now, Sir, we have been told at different times that we had four Army Corps, one Army Corps, two Army Corps, no Army Corps. I have listened to the statement of the Secretary to the War Office, but I want to know what about the eight Army Corps which were in the Army list for years? Four of the Army Corps never had any existence at all. The fashion used to be, three years ago, to say we had no Army Corps at all, but we had certain Divisions which could be mobilised in a foreign war. Well, we hear these things. We hear also that there is to be a rearrangement in the War Office, which I trust will produce all the fortunate consequences hoped for by the right hon. Gentleman. I believe that the views which I hold are the views of a large majority of the officers in all branches of the Service; but it should not be forgotten that in these matters the War Office has a tradition. The Department is not a great intellectual creation which goes on its way steadily to a certain goal, and I ask hon. Members, when they are asked to accept certain conclusions as the deliberate view of the War Office, to remember that the same authority had, in past years, asked them to accept as gospel a vast number of other propositions which have now to be abandoned. I appeal to the House to look at these proposals in the light of common sense. Sometimes hon. Members have the impression that these matters are too technical for them, and that, therefore, they need not give that attention to them which they give to other matters. I do not think the matters I am speaking of are technical at all, because we can all judge of them on their merits. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's statement with regard to the depôts, and I observe the concession which he has made; and with regard to that concession, I sincerely trust that it will have the effect which he desires; but I cannot accept the reasons which he has put before this House with great emphasis in support of his opinion. I should like him to make it clear, because there is confusion in the mind of the public with regard to linked battalions and the depôt system. The right hon. Gentleman has crystallised the opinion of a section of this House in the Amendment which he has put upon the Paper, and has drawn attention to what is the crucial point of our Army organisation, and that is the use of one unit, whether it be a battalion or a battery, for reinforcement. The battalions have nothing to complain of by the mere fact that they are linked together—they never see anything of each other. But, Sir, the use of the linked battalions is most unfortunate. It is a thing which must commend itself to the common sense of any hon. Member. The length of service of our soldiers is seven or eight years. The one organisation which is at the bottom of all our Army is the regimental system. The right hon. Gentleman has attempted so much that he might attempt a little more; for I say that to keep the regimental feeling alive ought to be to him, and to every one who has the love of the Army at heart, a serious and sacred duty. A man goes to enlist, and goes to the depôt—and remember that the whole array of these depôts costs £700,000. He stays there and learns his duties. Just as he has learnt them, and has began to understand and appreciate the system, and to know his officers and comrades, he is sent to the home battalions, where he learns the same thing over again. He begins absolutely at the beginning, and learns the same things over again. Then, when he has stayed there long enough to know his officers, he is transferred to another regiment abroad. There he takes up with a different set of officers. And what then happens, and has happened over and over again? Why, this: that in three years' time the foreign battalion comes back, and he, being a recently-joined man, a third change takes place, and he finds himself once more associated with his old battalion. Well, Sir, it is undesirable that I should further waste my time, and the time of the House, in arguing over it. The right hon. Gentleman says that it is absolutely out of the question to get rid of it, and he told us that in order to get rid of it you must substitute for it depôts, which would be enormously expensive and which would involve the addition of 30,000 men to the Army. I believe that to be a delusive conclusion arrived at by people who do not desire to see a reasonable system put into force. And here I would say one word about what the right hon. Gentleman said as to the character of the recruits joining at the depôts. He told us that men trained in the depôts are inferior as soldiers to men trained in the Army. That was said in the presence of officers of the Guards, and I should like to ask those officers, or an officer of the Navy, whether they would assent to the proposition that recruits for the Guards and the Marines were inferior in physique, in courage, or in any soldier-like or sailor-like quality. You may have good depôts, and you may have bad depôts, but a properly organised one will turn out as good men as were wanted or would ever be got. The right hon. Gentleman said you must keep your man at the depôt two years. You have got to send him to India, and therefore you must keep him at the depôt two years, and consequently it is enormously expensive. We have to contemplate the position which is to be created in all these re-engagements, and we shall then have no difficulty in engaging men of 19 and upwards. It is only by putting men in the regiment in which he is going to serve the remainder of his time that you can really give effect to the regimental feeling that exists; and nothing is more disliked by officers and men than this changing about. I do not admit that it is impossible so to organise the depôt system that the results which have been obtained in the Guards and Royal Marines can be obtained in the Line regiments. The territorial system need not be interfered with in such a system as this. I thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean for bringing in this Resolution, and calling the attention of the House to the matter. I think this depôt system is convenient for the Infantry. It is admitted that it is expedient for the Artillery, and is to be restored, I imagine, practically in its entirety before very long for the Cavalry. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the recruiting difficulty would, in his opinion, be met by the measures which he has suggested, and he tells us that by the addition of 80 men per day to the existing battalions the drain upon the battalions at home would be met. I think, however, that is a great deal too sanguine. I do not want to chop figures with the right hon. Gentleman, but I should like to refer to one or two very obvious figures which I think there can be no doubt about, because they are taken from the same source of information as the right hon. Gentleman has at his disposal himself. Take the case of the 2nd Battalion of the Berkshire Regiment, the 66th. I find that in September of last year the Berkshire Regiment, after deducting men of under 20 years of age and taking off the men in their last year of service, which were 35, and after despatching the drafts and allowing a deduction of 10 per cent. for invalids, would require 842 men to bring it up to its war strength of 1,040 men—842 wanted for the Reserve. Then take the 89th Regiment—the 2nd Royal Fusiliers—671 men would be required to bring that up to its full war strength. The 18th—the 2nd Battalion Somersetshire—requires 800 men, and the 91st requires 847 men. These are very serious figures, and I do not think it can be met satisfactorily by any drafts from the Reserve into the battalions. The right hon. Gentleman has affirmed that the numbers of Reserve men would be very excessive—that they would swamp the battalions. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken about my having made a sweeping statement in the presence of several of the foreign military Attachés, but I was not in any way responsible for the company I had the honour of addressing. I may say that on that occasion there were four gentlemen representing the War Office present, all of whom spoke. Therefore my withers are still unwrung, and I do not think that any rebuke is due to me for anything that took place on that occasion. I said that the Infantry battalions would be swamped by men. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the Infantry at home would require more than 50 per cent. of their men. He told us that in the Artillery until these reforms took place, over 60 per cent. of the batteries would have to be made up from the Reserve.


The remark I referred to was— Our batteries were without men and horses, our Cavalry regiments were in much the same condition, and to fill up the Line battalions we should have to swallow up the Reserve, and men would have to be shovelled in from God knows where.


That is precisely my point, and I think that I have absolutely proved that I was right. You will have trouble with these men. You will get men from the Reserve, and you will be shovelling these men into the Line battalions. There will be no nucleus whatever of the battalion; and, so far from the Reserve being adequate, I find that, after taking the necessary deductions of the whole of the battalions in the manner which I have already explained, there will be 48,000 men required from the Army Infantry Reserve.


My hon. Friend has fallen into the error of deducting men that do not come into consideration for war purposes.


The right hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken. I have not done anything of the kind, and therefore I must adhere, to the statement I have made, but I do not desire to dwell longer on the figures of the right hon. Gentleman, for, as he has admitted the case which I desire to establish, I do not think it is necessary to go further in that direction. We are told that we are to have an extra 3d. a day given to the men—that will be a very good thing, but I do not believe that that will really meet the case. I do not believe that we shall ever get a proper flow of recruits until we can give a career to the soldier, and I do not see that this 3d. a day is giving that to him. The real thing would be to give him something to look forward to, after his first three, four, five, or six years of military service. At present I cannot see that there will be a very large number of men who will have any career open to them at all. What will happen? 5,000 men from the Reserve will be taken for the Army. A battalion of some 300 will be mobilised for service abroad, and there will be 500 or 600 Reservists coming in from every battalion in the British Army; there will be an accumulation of men absolutely strangers to each other, and all I can say is, that the experience of everyone is that it is exceedingly difficult for young non-commissioned officers to maintain discipline in regiments filled up from the Reserve. It will be practically impossible if you have 500 or 600 men brought from a large number of different battalions. In regard to the employment of boys, I wish that the right hon. Gentleman could have told us a little more. I do not understand this question of the employment of boys of the age of 19, at a lower rate of wage than was received by the men with whom they were side by side. In the Navy boys are kept till they are 18 as boys and paid as boys, and I believe you will have to come to this in the Army. You will have to get boys as boys, and pay them as such, but I cannot reconcile myself to the idea of a man of 19 being taken into the Army, and being on terms of inferiority with men with whom he is working. In the Navy the plan is totally different; each man there is earning his extra emolument by some effective service which he has rendered, and there is no discontent, or only in very rare cases. With regard to the three or four battalion regiments, I do not see what advantage is to be gained by them. I have not yet been made aware of any advantage. At the present moment, one of these regiments has three battalions abroad, and I have actually known cases of men going through four battalions during the course of their service. I should like to say one word with regard to the Cavalry. I ask the House to look very carefully, whether we ought not to ask for a modification of the Secretary of State's decision. I believe I am right in saying that there is not a single officer commanding a Cavalry regiment in this country who desires to see the system continued. Cavalry regiments are peculiar in their constitution. Every Cavalry man thinks he is a better man than the man of any other regiment, and if he does not he is not worth having. Men enlist in these regiments because their fathers or brothers have served before them, or because they have read of the feats of arms accomplished by a particular regiment. Now, what has been done? By what I consider a very serious breach of the Army Act, in letter but not in spirit, men are being enlisted for whole groups of Cavalry regiments. The Army Act is perfectly explicit on this matter. It says that a man shall not be transferred from one corps to another after the first three months without his own consent; but now a group of Cavalry regiments is formed and called a corps. A corps is defined as a territorial regiment. These groups of eight or nine Cavalry regiments are not territorial regiments, nor organised regiments. There is no intention of organising them. I know cases where men have been so disgusted with the idea of transference from one Cavalry regiment to another that they declined to remain longer in the Service, or absolutely refused to enter it at all. Although the right hon. Gentleman says he will do all in his power to mitigate this evil, it will still exist in the case of 50 per cent. of the men who enlist in Cavalry regiments. It is a disadvantage to an unskilled debater to have to grasp within a very short time the whole of the meaning and the whole of the bearing of the very full and very interesting statement of the right hon. Gentleman; but the impression left on my mind—and I have been for many years interested in military matters—is one of qualified satisfaction with what has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman. I very strongly feel that all who care for the Army ought to exercise their power, in order to get the authorities still further to modify this plan of drafting men from regiment to regiment. With regard to the concessions made in the matters of recruiting and terms of service, it is too soon to say what effect they will have in strengthening the Army. I am not so sanguine as the right hon. Gentleman appears to be. I do not think that in the whole of his speech he got quite near enough to what is at the bottom of the whole matter—namely, the feelings of the individual soldier, and the effect of those feelings on recruiting. I am in entire accord with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean that the Army difficulty will never be thoroughly met until the Army is divided into two classes—men who are enlisted for long service at home and abroad, representing long service men, and men who are enlisted solely for home service, representing three years' service men. I believe that men of the class whom we all want to see in the Army will not go into the Army unless something is held out to them more certain and more attractive than what is contained in the proposals laid before the House by the right hon. Gentleman tonight. At any rate, those who did right in bringing questions of Army Reform before the Secretary of State for War have not laboured in vain. I have here a record of what were my convictions some five years ago. Among the items we considered as being desirable and necessary no less than 25—some large and some small, some important and some unimportant—have commended themselves to the judgment of the War Office and the Secretary of State for War, and that, I think, is a record with which we may be satisfied. Of course, many of the 25 concessions are details, but the whole military question is made up of details affecting the soldier. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the way in which he has presented this matter, and thank him for the very large concessions he has made.

*COLONEL C. W. LONG (Worcester, Evesham)

The Service Members of this House will greatly appreciate the statement which has been made, because the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War has put forward contain convincing proof of the truth and of the wisdom of a certain letter addressed last year by them to Lord Salisbury. The terms of this Resolution must appear to many Members of this House who are not soldiers as rather curious. Who would organise their forces so that one unit must be sacrificed to produce the efficiency of another unit? Yet that is exactly what, has been going on for many years under certain circumstances, which the peculiar conditions of our Empire are sure to reproduce again and again. As has already been said, the case has been given away as far as the Royal Artillery is concerned. The three batteries which had to go to the Cape last year certainly reduced a number of other flatteries to mere skeletons. It does not answer the position to say that these skeletons in the case of a great war could have been made up to their full war strength by means of Reservists, because though you may with safety largely increase and raise to war strength an efficient battery, if you strip a battery of all the men who are tit for active service, and make up its complete strength by Reserve men who have never seen the officers or non-commissioned officers, who do not know each other, and are not acquainted with the new pattern guns, which, perhaps, have been issued to the battery, it would require three or four months' hard work to make that battery fit for active service. Turning from that to the Infantry, you have the case of the Berkshire Regiment. But I do not think it necessary to go into details of individual battalions, because the system has broken down on the first principles on which it is based, namely, the having the same number of units at home as abroad. I dare say I shall be told that we now have a Government which is earnestly endeavouring to put right the various faults and failures which the last 28 years have shown to exist in the system. Well, Sir, I very gladly recognise that fact. We have got a Government which is most anxious to perfect our military machinery, but we have to consider what the proposals are which they put forward, and how far they will deal with the various difficulties. The first proposal is to meet the difficulty of making the home battalions efficient for small wars. The right hon. Gentleman told us that they proposed to induce 5,000 Reservists, by giving them extra pay, to come back to the Colours during their first year. This is very much better than the present system of taking them from other battalions and making them inefficient. But putting aside the increased difficulty of getting employment in civil life for these 5,000 men, we have to face the fact that you will have a battalion hurried on active service, filled up with a number of men who do not know each other, and who do not know their officers, and it appears to me that this entirely loses sight of what we call esprit de corps. I am quite aware that this old-fashioned virtue is at a considerable discount with a number of very distinguished officers, but, as a matter of fact, men are not like machinery, and the real fighting force of any unit can be very justly gauged by the cohesion and mutual confidence which exists between the various individuals which compose it. There is no doubt that is what makes a well-drilled righting unit, and I have often thought that Abu Klea and Majuba Hill would have told a very different story if our forces had been composed of definite battalions. Now, Sir, the next proposal is to render the home battalions more efficient, and that proposal is to add 80 men to their establishments. Well, Sir, of course, the larger the unit the better it will stand any strain for drafts, but I shall be inclined to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not see his way to urge that that increase of 80 men shall be men of over seven years of service. It appears to me that if he could bring this about from the present Reserve by some inducement, or by inducing other men to extend their service, the home battalions would be found more prepared to meet the strain of the immediate future, and would be altogether more efficient. That is, perhaps, his intention, but I do not think that he said so. Then the next point is that he proposes to raise six more battalions and new depôts 600 strong for those regiments who have both battalions abroad. This, of course, reduces any difficulty which may arise from drafts to make up the service battalions, but it all depends, it entirely stands or falls upon whether he can get recruits or not. He proposes to get extra recruits by increasing, practically increasing the pay of the soldiers, and then he proposes also to abolish deferred pay, with a view to increasing the chances of re-engaging them, which, of course, will reduce the number of recruits required, while, on the other hand, it will prevent so many men going to the Reserve, both of which, however, will be very likely balanced by the three-years men, who will send more men to the Reserve. The proposals also recognise boy service; and it is possible that they will be successful; but, as a matter of fact, a great many people think that, as far as that is concerned, the actual pay will not weigh so very much with the recruit when he comes to enlist, and from my experience that is so. At the same time, it may be fairly-argued, if you make a soldier more content when he is in the Service, if when he is on furlough and when he leaves the Service he speaks well of it, you will encourage recruiting in the class from which you are now drawing. But if you want to go further and tap a fresh strata, of society, and get a higher and better class of recruits as regards morality and education, your present increase of pay will not do it, and, as the hon. Member for Belfast pointed out, you must make the Army a profession, you must make it worth a man's while to come into it and recognise it as such, and make a soldier feel that when he retires he will, according to the time he has served, either have a pension or a certainty of civil employment. Now, passing from the Infantry to the Artillery, first of all—although having been many years in the Artillery service I have some sentiment towards the regiment as a whole—I cannot but accept with pleasure what I always advocated, the breaking up of the Artillery into smaller units. The proposal to increase the Artillery to five guns per 1,000 is no doubt rising to modern views. Germany, in 1870, had guns in the field to the number of something over four and a half per 1,000 bayonets, and from their experience in that campaign they have now made it five and a half. The increase to five recognises modern views. We are to have 15 batteries of four guns each, which are to be raised in the course of three years. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered how, in case of mobilisation, he is going to get Reservists to fill up these batteries, and bring them to their full working strength. We have at the present moment just sufficient to make good our present batteries, and if you are going to have 15 batteries more you will require very many more Reservists, and I would almost urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that it would be an advantage if he could, for a certain time, at all events, raise a certain number of his four-gun to six-gun batteries and increase his men, and so pass more men to the Reserve. It is somewhat the same with the horses. The 'buses of London are very well horsed, no doubt, but these horses would not do very well in the team of a gun. I have too often seen men killed by a faulty horse, and a badly horsed battery would be very seriously affected in its efficiency on active service. It is to be hoped that the extension of the horse and field batteries to 1,500 men will very largely assist the efficiency of our battery depôt, which, as the right hon. Gentleman himself has said, are far from what they ought to be, but it will entirely depend upon how he arranges the details of his depôts. If the men are only to be put through a certain amount of marching drill it will do no good except so far as it will develop the half-grown recruits in the gymnasium: but if he is going to provide them with adequate guns and horses there is no- reason why, in eight months, he should not work his recruits up to a point where they will be very efficient in much of the work of the Service battery, although they will not, of course, be finished gunners or drivers. But I would impress upon him, if I may, that one of the most important parts of the horse artillery or the field battery driver recruits' instruction is riding drill, and I would ask that there shall be no false economy in the number of horses. If you want to push the men on quickly in horse or field artillery batteries, the recruits ought to ride every day. A horse can only do a certain amount of work, and I speak as one who knows, when I say that you ought to have at least one-third as many horses at the depôts as you have mounted men. Whether they be horse or field batteries, that is the very least that will work efficiently, and it will take very good horse management to make that number suffice. Personally, having listened to the statement, I must say that I am much pleased at the right hon. Gentleman's proposals. I cannot help feeling that those who put down this Resolution were by his own statement thoroughly justified in so doing, and I think that to a certain extent, if he is successful in carrying out what he proposes, he will have met the demand. In fact, I myself should have thought the Government could very well afford to accept this Resolution, which only says that ought to be done which they themselves have said they are most anxious to do.


I believe that the Debate could best be carried on if this Resolution were negatived and the discussion taken on the main question. I will consent to the Resolution being negatived.

The Resolution was put and negatived.


I suppose no more difficult subject than this question has been brought before Parliament for some considerable time, and I also think the public mind, and military as well, has been aroused, as is illustrated by the mass of correspondence which within the last few months has appeared in the Press. I would say first that I give the hon. Gentleman full credit that he has a genuine desire to make a thorough investigation of the Question. On the other side, we have the statement of the representative of the War Office who has taken up a position from the very first of official optimism. I suppose we may look upon one picture or upon the other, but the point which struck me is this: that, as far as the right hon. Gentleman has written or spoken, it is clear that he has absolutely adduced no new facts. These are changes which have been before various Committees and the public generally for some considerable time, and, so far as the Under Secretary for the War Office is concerned, the position he has taken up now is exactly the same as he took up in the Wantage Commission of 1892. He was the official who was placed on that Board, and I do not now for the moment say that, the result of their labours was right or wrong; for this simple reason it should be hailed with satisfaction, that for the first time for very many years a Cabinet Minister at the head of this great Department has shown great interest and close sympathy with the requirements of the Army. He has disassociated himself with that official optimism, and he has clearly pointed out that the system itself is open to criticism, and that there are certain improvements which can be made. And, Sir, if I may go further than that, I would say that the speech which the Secretary of State for War delivered, which I read with great pleasure, was the first light which was thrown upon this controversy; and I will go further and say that I hailed with satisfaction the very clear and lucid speech made by my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for War, and I will gladly welcome the proposals he has made. Now, what are our national requirements? It has always struck me, if I may criticise from my humble point of view, that the State has for the last thirty years endeavoured to copy other nations; and with regard to our requirements, it seems that other nations are vastly different to ours. Germany is the nation selected to copy. The German army comprises some three millions of men, and they have, practically speaking, very small Colonial possessions. Germany cannot help us. The German system produces an army of 3,000,000 men, trained and equipped for war, and for service in the German colonies. France claims to possess 3,500,000 men trained for war, besides the 19th Army Corps permanently in North Africa, and four regiments of marine infantry in the Colonies. Austria, with no colonies or foreign possessions, maintains an army of 22,000. Italy can mobilise 8,000 men trained for war, and three battalions only abroad. As for England, if you look at the Army Estimates, you will see that India takes 73,000 men of all ranks, and the Colonies and Egypt 44,000, a total of 117,000 men, and with approximately another 117,000 at home, you have a grand total of 234,000. Now, the primary object of our military system is to maintain an army suited for service abroad. In peace time the system must provide garrisons for India and the Colonial stations. In war time it must be possible to reinforce any portion of the Empire, or to dispatch rapidly expeditionary forces in any direction. Now it seems to me that, if we are to have an organisation worthy of the name, fit to meet the conditions I have stated, and to make good the wastage due to war and climate, we must consider once and for all whether the present organisation under which the War Office is carried on makes that possible. I am one of those who believe in the linked battalion system. I have been a believer in it from the first, for I think that, as things are at present, it is the only efficient system under which it is possible to feed our Army abroad. It has been said that, on the question whether the linked battalion system is a good one or a bad one, it is impossible to state what the feelings of the Army generally are. That seems a most inaccurate statement, because, from the very first, on this particular question, the statements of the highest military authorities are fresh in the mind. Lord Wolseley has spoken in the clearest terms. He said— The Home Army ought to be the nursery for the Army abroad. Sir Evelyn Wood is another high military authority, who has expressed his views in the clearest manner. He said— The present system is, on the whole, the most satisfactory solution of a very difficult problem, and is infinitely superior to any system of depôts. Many officers advocate a return to the depôt system, but they are not satisfactory training schools. I feel certain, with all its disadvantages, it is better for the Empire that the home battalions should feed their linked battalions while abroad. Every General who has studied the thing at all, believes that the linked battalion system has been our salvation. When this matter was brought before the Wantage Committee in 1892, full evidence was taken on this point, and, as the result of their deliberations, the Wantage Committee unanimously reported that the advantages of the system of regimental training for men destined for India over the alternative and far more expensive system of depôts can hardly be over-estimated. The Committee have no hesitation in expressing their belief that the double battalion system is not only the most economical, but also the best machinery that can at present be devised for furnishing the foreign drafts and effecting the reliefs. After reading these statements of high authorities, all of which have been made public. I say that the accusation that the military authorities have not had an opportunity of expressing their views very strongly is without foundation. On the question of the Reserve I wish to say only a few words. The ideal organisation is that we should have an Army, and behind that Army that there should be a Reserve, and that that Reserve should be trained in the ranks. It has been said that there is a large reserve in our Militia and Volunteer forces. But the highest of military authorities have said over and over again, with regard to the Reserve, both for small wars and for large, wars, that it should be trained in the ranks. Lord Wolseley, Sir Redvers Buller, Sir Evelyn Wood, and other authorities have spoken with great clearness on this question. Sir, I am quite aware that in the public mind a feeling exists as to whether this Reserve is a sham or a real Reserve; whether it exists on paper, or whether, if ever called upon, it will make its appearance. On that point I quote the opinions of high military authorities. The Duke of Cambridge said— The Reserve called out in 1882 behaved most admirably, and we were surprised how little they had lost. Lord Wolseley said— It was said originally that the Reserve would only be a paper Army, but it turned out—to the astonishment of those who had made this assertion—to be quite the reverse. We have always found the Reserve very efficient when turned out. It was surprising how quickly the Reservists, when called out, settled in the ranks, and the good feeling with which they did settle down astonished the commanding officers. Sir Redvers Buller says— Our Reserve is in a very efficient state. Last year we called up 15,000 men, and all were accounted for except 129. That was a surprise to me. The calling out of the Reserve has always been satisfactory. On no occasion has the deficiency ever amounted to 7 per cent. I am quite satisfied that it is working well, and I emphatically differ from the opinion that it is merely a paper Army. Sir, I do not make these quotations merely to counteract what has been said against the Reserve, but because I believe the public should know that these statements have been made by high military authorities. I should like to say two or three words with regard to the War Office. I am afraid I have no kindly feeling towards that distinguished body of men, my reason being their action toward the Brigade of Guards last year. I would only say, in connection with that subject, that, having just returned from Gibraltar, I am now more than ever convinced that it was a mistake to send the Guards there. I believe that in the end their efficiency will suffer. I found, as I said last year, that the fatigues were tiresome, that the entire Guards were heavy, and I saw some Guardsmen breaking stones on the road. The efficient training of the young soldiers is absolutely impossible in consequence of the cramped training ground. I do not wish to labour that point, and only refer to it as an instance of War Office mismanagement. Sir, it occurs to me that, if the War Officials have been working on the wrong lines for years, they are suffering the severest of punishments in the loss of public confidence. Conscription has been mentioned, but, Sir, it appears to me that as long as the policy of the nation is, as it is at present, conscription in any shape or form will not be possible. My own strong feeling on that subject is, that our voluntary system has not been carried far enough. I believe myself that there is a national military spirit latent in people of this country, the sources of which have not vet been fully tapped by the voluntary system. As an example of that, we have only to recollect how the Volunteer force was called into existence, and how, during the last 38 years, it has been increasing in strength and efficiency from year to year, and that it is at its efficiency at the present moment. Only a few years ago, seven years I think, another sign of this latent military spirit was shown among working-class boys by the formation of the institution known as the Boys' Brigade. It was started by the Church Schools, and now, I believe, numbers something like 15,000 boys in its ranks, who are more or less trained in a soldierly fashion. The public schools also have their Volunteer regiments, who, by some arrangement, go into camp; and two years ago some 1,600 boys went to Aldershot for a time, and received some training. This proves what I say, that there is a military spirit latent in this nation which has not yet been fully tapped. A Reserve trained in the ranks is, of course, absolutely necessary for our military organisation. We have also the Volunteers, and 30,000 Militia, but I believe that, if the occasion arose, we could get another 30,000 men to fill the ranks of our Army. In the Volunteers we have another reserve to be called upon if occasion demands. My impression is, that the last thing which this country will ever consent to is conscription in any shape or form.

On the return of Mr. Speaker, after the usual interval,


It seems to me the right hon. Gentleman who has spoken on this subject just now has somehow failed in his object. It is very easy to criticise any large establishment such as the Army of a country. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean and the hon. Member for Belfast are identified prominently with the criticism brought forward to-night, but I say they have suggested no clear and distinct alternative which they wish to introduce as a substitute for the system that they have condemned root and branch. I think that I and the Members of this House would be much more able to compare the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the present system if there were proper suggestions put forward to compare with the present system of our Army establishment. I animadvert upon one thing which I think the hon. Member for Belfast has advocated—long service. I believe he is advocating a system which, on account of its failure, has been condemned and given up, not only in our own country, but also by every foreign country, and to my mind it is utterly hopeless as a possible system to meet our Army requirements. I do not wish to put forward a proposition as to long or short service, but, as a matter of fact, I think it may be fairly stated that short service has given us a better Army than, ever we had before. I am anxious to do anything I can to remove the erroneous impression which prevails that short service has failed, and it would be unfortunate if I omitted to make it clear in the course of this Debate that this system of enlistment we now have, speaking broadly, is practically the only system open to us. I am sure there is great confusion in the public mind as to what all this fuss about the Army means. The general idea is that short service has failed. I am one of those who would do anything to remove that impression. As a matter of fact, the system of enlistment we have now, speaking broadly, is the only system open to us. To my mind, the hon. Member for West Belfast has attributed the slowness of the country to accept or institute Army reform to the wrong source. He has blamed the War Office, but I do not know exactly what he means when he uses the words, "Some entity called the War Office." The War Office is, of course, able to defend itself. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean and the hon. Member for West Belfast, in a very bad manner, attacked what they call the War Office "entity." The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean said: Is it not outrageous that we should have such a state of things as this in the War Office? Perhaps we are the best judges of that. I should like to ask this question: I wonder how many times the Cabinet has refused the requests of the Secretary of State for War, and how many proposals of Army reform it has been necessary to sacrifice in view of the more urgent necessities of the country. The real reason why we have not had Army reform is that public opinion has been apathetic on the subject, and I could point to extracts and statements in leading papers within the last three or four years where it appears they allowed an opinion to be expressed that, as a matter of fact, we did not particularly want an Army; but what we did want was a Navy. Any one who has studied this question for the last 12 years would say that, concurrently with increasing the Navy and increasing our possessions abroad, it is absolutely necessary that we should increase our Army to protect our harbours, forts, etc., and it is evident that we ought to be satisfied as to this necessity for increasing our Army. In my humble judgment, the blame should not be laid upon any particular department or on any particular advisers, civil or military, but I do think we ought to attribute it to the real source, and that is that the public have not realised until very lately what our needs have been. There is one other point I should like to allude to, and that is this: it is said we have not got our money's worth. Well, that statement was brought forward and supported by great authorities, but, on the other hand, I should like to point out that there is not a single suggestion dealing with the Army laid before the House, either now or in past Debates which I have had the honour of listening to, which does not involve greater outlay and greater expense, whether we get our money's worth or not, or whether the suggestion as to the Indian Army be carried out, or whether it be an apt suggestion or otherwise as to having large depôts such as mentioned by the hon. Member for Biggleswade. Whether it is that or any other suggestion, it all means increased expense, and I put it to the House whether that is not a strong ground for assuming that we have now got a system which, as far as we can see, is, at any rate, more economical than any other system which has yet been brought forward by the right hon. Baronet who compared our Army with Armies abroad. Well, when one bears in mind the relative cost of our Army and of Armies abroad, one is obliged to remind the House that it is suggested that we sacrifice some of the best years of a man's life, which are taken away from civil pursuits and devoted to the service of his country. My own hope is, after what we have learned from the right hon. Gentleman to-night, that the system we have got in this country may really now have a fairer chance than it has bad during the past few years. As a matter of fact, two complaints are made against it. On the one hand, it is said that, the machinery has broken down, and on the other hand that it does not give us enough men, and that our Army is not large enough. We must deal with those two questions separately. We may arrange to increase our Arm}-, but that is a separate question. I must apologise for mentioning the right hon. Baronet, the Member for the Forest of Dean so often in his absence, but I only want to recall to the hon. Member what he said when he was talking about our responsibilities abroad. He said it is quite a mistake to say that our responsibilities abroad have increased, and that it is due to our responsibilities elsewhere that this breakdown has occurred. He said: Is it not the case that all our garrisons have been withdrawn from Canada, the Australian Colonies, and so on. I should like to point out that, as a matter of fact, the withdrawal of these garrisons was the accompaniment of this system, which was one of the systems employed to reduce the expenditure. It is the policy of concentrating, as far as possible, all our highly trained troops at home, and encouraging our self-governing Colonies to defend themselves, and to look after their home defence. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean has alluded to this fact to show the great elasticity which our present system should have because those liabilities have been taken away within the last few years. We know that our responsibilities have increased, such as in Africa and other parts of the world, in which we have troops, and which it was impossible to foresee when this short service system was introduced. These are a few of the causes of the strain which has been put upon the system. I may be allowed to say one or two words on one or two points of vital reform. I should like, by the way, to mention what I think is another difficulty of Army administration in this country, which the right hon. Gentleman himself pointed out. I think there are signs of reforms in what the right hon. Gentleman has denounced to-night. If I may say so, I should like to congratulate him on the departure from the present regulations which he has announced. I need not run over them. To military men especially, I may be allowed to say that these suggestions show an endeavour, on the part of the War Office, to meet the views of cavalry officers, to try to meet their susceptibilities which have been so recently disturbed. Then we have had mentioned the three years' men, and also decentralisation. Then we have the question of the extra 3d. for groceries. It really may be hoped that a general measure in this respect will be introduced. Speaking for myself, I must say that, in spite of all that has been said, I am not sure that the Government will meet with their reward in conceding this extra 3d. Of course, I imagine it will be much simpler to do away with all those small entries which come under grocery allowance; but I doubt very much whether we shall, by this 3d. given to the soldier, make any largo inrush of any new class of recruits. The hon. Member who sat down last spoke of the hopeless career of the soldier. I believe it is true to say that we are attracting an entirely new class of men to the Army. Supposing that to be the case, this 3d. does not take us very far on the road if we depart from the class of men which now supplies the great body of recruits for the Army. If we are going to look beyond the present class of recruits, then I think there is no alternative but to compete with organised labour in the county—i.e., to compete with the artisan who now lives on 25s. a week, or to compete with the man who prefers to be a policeman, or with the man who prefers to marry and settle down. Such a competition is not contemplated at all. We are dealing simply with the class from which at present we draw our recruits, which must be a limited number, bearing a more or less constant relative proportion to the whole of the population of the community. That is the class from which the Government will look for recruits. Assuming that point, this 3d. allowance seems to me a little bit of unnecessary extravagance on the part of the Government. Then with regard to the abolition of the deduction of deferred pay, I believe this also to be a doubtful benefit. I should like at this point to say how glad I am that the Government have found means to provide increased employment for the Reserves and discharged soldiers. Now, Sir, I have taken some pains to watch this question both as adjutant and since I left the Army, and I have been in constant contact with a man who has left the service, and I believe that this question of the want of employment for discharged soldiers has been immensely exaggerated, and so far as my personal knowledge goes men of good character have no difficulty in getting employment. The large proportion of men who leave the Army have not the least difficulty in getting employment. I know that myself from the endeavours and operations of voluntary societies which exist for this purpose. I find as an invariable rule, with a little patience, there is no difficulty in getting employment for any men such as hon. Members themselves would be willing to employ. I admit to the full that there are men for whom it is difficult to find a situation, but I am not going to generalise or be too definite upon the point, but my impression is that the difficulty is very largely exaggerated, and I do not think we have arrived at the best way of dealing with the matter. With regard to deferred pay, to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, the great proportion of men find this a benefit. There is another indirect reason which discourages me from approving altogether the abolition of deferred pay, viz., that if anything it militates against men going into the Reserve. It rather inclines them to continue with the colours. As to the employment of soldiers, I am glad that the War Office has been able to secure further openings for these men, but I cannot help thinking that we must not go too far in this direction, or we shall be acting unfairly towards the civil population. We shall be going in the direction of allowing a military caste to claim a right to these appointments, and therefore we shall be throwing the responsibility where we ought not. My impression is that while men are in the Army we should do something to fit them for employment in civil life afterwards. I believe it is quite possible. The experiment has been tried in various parts of the country, and we should do all in our power to encourage men to qualify for employment in civil life, and we should hold out to them the opportunity of going into civil life whenever they are fitted to do so. Well, perhaps I may say one word upon the question to which the hon. Member who last sat down alluded—the latent military spirit of the population; and I cannot help believing that in times to come it may be possible for the Government to rely more than it does at present upon it. I do not see why we should not have Militia schemes or plans based more closely upon the requirements of the country than they are at present. I know perfectly well that local peculiarities, circumstances, and characteristics have, more or less governed these matters in the country; but I cannot help thinking that by appealing to public spirit we may be able to induce the people to give up these predilections, to a certain extent, and by that means we may be able to get a more perfect scheme than is at present possible for the defence of the country.


My right hon. Friend has scored a distinct success, for two reasons: first, for the extremely clear and lucid manner in which he has explained the matter to us, but more certainly because of the goodness of his scheme; secondly, because for the first time the Secretary of State for War has followed our maxim of eliciting public opinion. He has opened his ears to public opinion, and he has crystallised it, and he has rejected that which he did not consider good for the Army, and he has produced a scheme which, I think, satisfies both the soldiers and civilians in this House. The goodness of the scheme is shown by the way it has been received. We thought that the Debate would have lasted much longer than it has done, but the considerations offered by my right hon. Friend in the Government have proved so grateful to the Army and this House that few can find anything to say against them. My right hon. Friend, in his speech, again alluded to the question of the Reserve, and he emphasised certain portions of his explanation by telling us what the Reserve was for. I think it is the general opinion of the public that the service needs the Reserve; that the Reserve is of the greatest use, because the Army could not do without it. It is no use in these days to compare our Army with what it was in the time of Wellington or at the date of the Crimea, and I think we all recognise that the Reserve is the backbone of the Army. The right hon. Gentleman used a phrase to the effect that the Reserve is made for the Army, and not the Army for the Reserve. That was a point which the public had recognised for some time, but this is the first time that we have heard it recognised by official lips. We have also heard for the first time of the strain upon the battalions. The public has been aware of that strain for a long time past. They have endeavoured to point out to the officials that the battalions at home and abroad are not so strong as they should be. Now, for the first time, my right hon. Friend confesses that the battalions abroad show lamentable weakness, and I think the public in this case are justified in blaming the Government for the non- discovery of that weakness, as they have by that confession practically admitted the allegations made by the public. As regards the linked battalions, I confess there are many of us who view them with disfavour, but I do recognise the truth and correctness of what has been said by my right hon. Friend this evening. We have not heard anywhere, and I have not seen in the public Press, any suggestion of any system which may take the place of the present; and, opposed as I am to linked battalions, I am powerless before the facts and figures which he has produced. My right hon. Friend condemned in severe terms the system of depôts. I cannot make out why. I do not think it has been successfully or conclusively proved that the depôts should be so universally condemned. It worked very well in the past, and at the present time works fairly well at Caterham in connection with the Household Beigade; and I trust the Opinion of any one man, however good a soldier he may be, will not be taken as a reason for condemning a system which certainly has many advantages. After all, these objections to depôts which are put forward are in very uncertain terms; but you admit the principle, and you are going to try the depôts on a new system. With regard to the regimental names or numbers, I confess I am old-fashioned enough to regret that the Government has not seen its way to no back to the old regimental numbers. A retrograde step is not always good, but I believe that this would have given great satisfaction in the Army. One remembers, in the Crimea, that a serious effect was created by a regiment being called by its official name instead of its number. The regulations as regards the Cavalry are, I understand, to be mitigated, and I hope that will meet the views of Cavalry officers who have expressed dissatisfaction at the method of recruiting by brigades. Hon. Members of this House have said for some time that you would get recruits if you abolished that deferred pay system. Military classes are also doing their best to discover some plan which will give them a more effective supply of forces, but I suppose the Service Commissioners will exercise the same terrors in the way of examinations then as they do at the present time. My right hon. Friend, in the commencement of his speech about the War Office, said the organisation of the Army was so complicated. So it is, but who made it so? The organisation of armies abroad is never complained of as being so extraordinarily complicated, and I see no reason why we should deal more in complication than any other service. My right hon. Friend also referred to the reduction of the medical doctors in the Army. It strikes me very forcibly that the doctors are going to reduce themselves, and I should be glad to hear, in the course of the Debates following on the various Votes, what measures, if any, Her Majesty's Government have taken in order to supply the serious want of medical doctors in the Army at the present time. The various reforms that have been foreshadowed by my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for War will be gratefully received by the Army, which, I think I may say, will be astonished at the breadth of those proposals, and the way in which they have been given to the Army. The Army generally will recognise the efforts of Her Majesty's Government, I am perfectly certain; and I am sure hon. Members of this House, who from time to time have endeavoured to press these views upon the Government, will greatly appreciate and recognise the efforts that have been made to meet them.

*MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)

On reading this memorandum, I very much regret to find in it a clause which I think accounts for a great deal of the reason why recruits do not join the Army. I am speaking now as an old Volunteer officer. I find from this memorandum that there is a decrease of 13,000 men, that of the old Volunteers the number of efficients is 4,145, against 5,300 last year. That is a sad state of things, and I ask the Under Secretary for War what is the reason of it. I have a great number of Volunteers in my employ, and, being an old Volunteer officer, I ask them why they leave the Volunteer forces, and I think the responsibility for it rests upon the War Office. I do not think they do their duty by the Volunteer forces on many points. They call out the Volunteers, for instance, to do drills and exercises for eight or 10 days—take my own town—many of those Volunteers are working-men, earning 20s., 25s., and some 30s. a week, and you call them out for camp duty and never pay them a penny for that time. You pay the Militia, but you do not pay the Volunteers, the slightest allowance, and we have to keep their situations open for them until they come back. It is not fair to the Volunteers, who give them nights and Saturday afternoons to make themselves efficient, not to pay them for their lost time. It is a mere matter of commerce, and you will get the men if you pay them well. The soldiers if Cromwell's army had three times the pay that Tommy Atkins has to-day, and he had 80,000 men in the field; and where was the War Office then? All you have to do is to come to this House and say we want a, first-class Army, and set down the amount of money you require, and you will get it. If you want soldiers, you must pay them. But I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to increase his Vote, so as to enable him to give the volunteers such amount of pay as will be equivalent to the loss of time which is entailed by their voluntary service and cessation from their ordinary employment when doing camp duty.

SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Wellington, Somerset)

I think my hon. Friend, who has just spoken, has rather overlooked the fact that, although Cromwell's troopers were paid higher wages, they had to pay a great deal more than would make up the difference between their pay and that of our soldiers of to-day. My hon. and gallant Friend was correct in saying that in this Debate we were perfectly over whelmed by the very clear statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made to-night, and, as an old soldier, I have to thank him for the Measures of reform which he has given us, and which we receive with gratitude. I regret that so strong a Secretary for War and so strong a War Office was not able to go further, and give us a system with some finality about it. I wish to detain the House for a very few moments, but I wish to ask one or two questions. With regard to the Guardsmen, I understand, under the scheme, men who enlist for three years will not receive the full shilling a day, and no man will receive the extra 3d. a day until he reaches the age of 19. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend if Guards who enlisted for three years, or seven years, under the age of 19 will get the shilling a day in future. If they do not, I am afraid there will be some difficulty in raising the extra number of men required for the Guards. Another question is this: We have been told by the Commander-in-Chief that we are in a position to mobilise two Army Corps at very short notice. I am afraid some of us in this House are somewhat sceptical as to that mobilisation. Now what I would suggest is that, instead of spending the money which we shall spend on the manœuvres this year, we should spend it in mobilising these two Army Corps; that we should certainly have the arms out and the stores out, and mobilise in the completest possible manner, and I am quite certain that such a course, in the long run, would be to the benefit of the Government and the country. The Commander-in-Chief has said that two Army Corps would be mobilised in a few days. It is to be hoped that the success of that experiment will justify the Government in what they are now doing. My hon. Friend has spoken just now about doing away with deferred pay. I have found, as an adjutant, that all the best men left the Colours on purpose to get this deferred pay. What was the result? The object of deferred pay was to give the men some start in civil life, but the result was that a man had probably borrowed money from some Jew, and when he got the remainder he went and got drunk! That was neither good for the man nor the Service at large. I am very glad that the Secretary of War had the courage to do away with deferred pay. As regards the Militia, we might have heard something more about it. The state of the Militia demands the very serious attention of the Government. I think, also, that further steps might be taken to make our Infantry regiments more territorial than they are now. One other point I will touch upon—and it is an important one—I refer to the question of the new battalions which the Government propose to raise. I should like to know where these battalions are to come from. Of course, no one expects consistency from the occupants on the Front Bench, and not much consistency from the occupants of the Back Bench, but I would like to point out to my right hon. Friend the language he used last year. He said— By sending out three guard battalions, we are avoiding the necessity of raising six line battalions, and by doing that we avoid the necessity of raising and of expending £200,000 permanently. We also avoid the initial expenditure, which would raise our requirements for military works from £5,500,000 to £6,000,000. That is not all, because you could not be sure of getting the number of line recruits you want, unless you grant an increase of pay. If you gave threepence a day extra pay, I do not think that that would have the least effect on recruiting, and yet threepence a day Mould add nearly a million sterling to the annual estimates. Therefore you are asking us to embark on a very dangerous and difficult operation if you call on us to substitute for our present proposals the much greater proposals which find force with so many of my friends. Speaking on the 23rd July last year, he said— It was not at all clear that they would get the men on present terms. To add to the present rate of pay was an easy thing to talk about, but it was doubtful if any small addition would get the men, while it was certain that a considerable increase of rate would mean a very considerable charge. Threepence a day would not be certain to secure a better or more numerous class of men. Now, Sir, that is my right hon. Friend's view last year. We are entitled to ask on what grounds he bases his present hopes. I thank the House for the kind manner in which it has listened to me, and I sincerely trust that the proposals the Government have brought forward will do all that the Government anticipate.

*DR. R. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

I am glad we are beginning in emerge from the fog created by the discussion in the public Press. Whether it is that the right hon. Gentleman, and those with whom he acts, have levelled themselves up to be in a line with their critics, or, however it comes about, I think we who have got to pay the money, we who are the taxpayers, are beginning to settle down with a greater feeling of satisfaction that we are getting more value for that money. Possibly, after all, we may have two Army Corps, and perhaps we are not quite so bad as we are painted. I must say I do not concur with my Friend the hon. Member for Forfarshire with regard to free rations. From the point of view of the honourable understanding with the recruit—which, I think, has been broken—it is very important that he should now get his groceries paid for him. It is very important that these necessary articles of diet should now be supplied to him free of cost; and, although it is perhaps hopeless, I would ask whether it is not possible to do something to bridge over the dietetic chasm which takes place between the dinner of the soldier—12.30 on the one day—and his breakfast on the following morning, a period which, alas! is too often covered by drink and other excesses, which have a worse effect on him with an empty stomach than they would have if he had a full one. The difficulty is almost an insuperable one, though, perhaps, the ingenuity my right hon. Friend has shown on many other occasions may do something to bridge over this chasm. My hon. Friend the Member for Essex referred to the Army Medical Department. He made some rather mysterious observations about reductions in that department. I hope my right hon. Friend will give us some information on that point, and I also hope that he will take an early opportunity of imparting to the House the scheme which the War Office is known to be considering now with reference to the future of the Army Medical Department. The Medical Service has now practically been boycotted. It is impossible now to get good men. The Service is below its full strength, and there is a deadlock. I do not want to press my right hon. Friend unduly. I had the honour of introducing to the War Minister an influential deputation of a medical character to ask for certain concessions well known to this House, which I have often stated before. They asked the noble Marquess that the Army Medical Department should have a definite corps, and definite ranks in that corps, and we were able to assure the noble Marquess that if that were carried out, a free, full, and satisfactory flow of medical candidates would once more return to that now unfortunate service. I do not ask my right hon. Friend to give me an answer at present. I hope he will take an early opportunity of telling us what he is intending to do.

*MR. A. M. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)

I concur in the congratulations which have been bestowed on the right hon. Gentleman, and, therefore, I say nothing upon the subject I was inclined to enter into—namely, the extreme suddenness of the enthusiasm for Army reform which has characterised the Press, the public, and the Government. My excuse for venturing to mention it would have been that I called prominent attention to Army reform in my last election address to my constituents. The Government had, no doubt, difficulties in connection with the management of linked battalions. I believe probably those who are most enamoured of the system of linked battalions were originally deceived by the extreme symmetry of the arrangement. But that symmetry lends itself more to the manipulators of the Army on paper, who are to be found at the War Office, than to the commanders of armies in the field, and I believe that to them this very symmetry might prove a great snare. I have always thought, on the other hand, that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, to whom we are so greatly indebted in connection with this question, and to whom the country also is greatly indebted, has rather mistaken the shadow for the substance when he has made such a reactionary proposal as returning to the numbers of the regiments. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Essex advocated the same change just now. We expect reactionary changes from these Benches, but not from the Member for Belfast. On the other hand, in connection with the Cavalry, in regard to which I can speak from experience, I am sure it would be deplorable if any attempt to imitate the linked battalion system should be persisted in. In the case of the Infantry, there is a new territorial esprit de corps, which to a great extent takes the place of the old sentiment about the numbers. In the Cavalry, however, there is nothing corresponding to territorial sentiment, and if they are deprived of their pride in connection with the number of their particular regiments, all they hold most sacred is taken from them, and nothing given in its place. I will not dwell on the question of linked battalions further than to say that the more I consider it, in spite of the unpopularity of that view—and I know we are in a minority—the more I am convinced of the soundness of the views of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. I believe, with him, that we shall some day have to face the necessity of a Voluntary Army, with a long term of enlistment, raised for service in India and the Colonies, and another Army, with a very short term of enlistment, raised for service at home. I am glad that in the course of this Debate the Militia has come in for a share of attention. I believe the more people consider the military proposals from a national point of view the more will they become convinced of the great value and inherent capabilities of the old constitutional force. I do not at all agree with my noble Friend who sits for a Division of Bedfordshire, who was speaking on the subject just now; and I believe the importance of keeping the Militia up to its full strength is so great that we ought not to hesitate to employ all legal and all constitutional means in order to do so. The noble Lord spoke with horror of the idea of having recourse to any compulsion in this matter, but I am bound to say the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War showed a much more open mind on this point when, speaking in another place the other day, he said— I am not going to tell your Lordships that in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government ft is impossible to look forward to the time when, in some shape or other, this country will not be driven to resort to compulsory service. No one would advocate compulsory service in the sense in which it is understood abroad; still, we cannot too often remind our countrymen that, this old liability to serve in the Militia does exist, and that we may have to have recourse to it in a given state of affairs. In all these proposals that are made the real weak point appears to me to lie in the simple question: Where the men are to come from? I do not think my right hon. Friend, in his otherwise lucid statement, went candidly into that important question. I should like very much to ascertain from him, or from some other Member of the Government, what is really passing in their minds; and what body of men it is that they are really relying upon to supply the tremendous demand they are making, which varies from 9,000 to 16,000 and even to 25,000 men, according to the needs of particular newspapers for making startling announcements. I am afraid that if we really heard the truth we should find that they are relying on a large proportion of Reservists returning to the Colours in consequence of their not being required to return their deferred pay, and through the difficulty they have found in obtaining civil employment; and I ask anyone in this House whether it is not extremely dangerous to count this army of Reserve men practically a second time. Indeed, I am afraid that this inducement to come back from the Reserve to the Colours may persuade a certain number of men to leave the Colours according to the old arrangement, simply in order to return to the Colours according to the new arrangement. I do not know whether this has been anticipated, and whether there may not be some difficulty in obviating the danger. To return to the question of how to obtain these men. I have often complained in this House of the great want of originality which appears to exist in the minds of the authorities as to finding new sources to tap for a supply of recruits. I do not think the idea ought to be abandoned of trying to induce a superior class of man to enter the Army. I am sure that there is a great deal of available material at hand—a large number of men of splendid physique, whose only crime is that they have nothing to do, that they are idle, that they cannot pass examination. And yet such men are surely not useless. I believe if there were corps set apart for them they would be found to be excellent men, and I do not think the difficulties which exist would prove insuperable. But, Sir, returning to the inducements it is proposed to offer to soldiers under the old system, I cannot help asking the Government whether they will not now give some consideration to a Report which I had the honour of drafting my- self, a few years ago, on the civil employment of retired soldiers and sailors. To the best of my belief it has never received any attention until very recently. Sir, it is instructive to note that this Select Committee of ours was assembled for the purpose of inquiring why nothing had been done in accordance with the recommendation of another Select Committee which had sat in 1876–1877. It is very pathetic to read that this Select Committee of 20 years ago or more finished their recommendation by saying— We desire to express an earnest hope that the recommendations which have been made should be taken into consideration by the Departments concerned with as little delay as possible. But as nothing whatever was done I need not read any further. But I may trouble the House with one of the concluding paragraphs of the Report which I had the honour of presenting in 1895. It is to this effect— As regards old soldiers, the tendency would seem to have been to regard them as a peculiar class of men segregated from the rest of the community, and although the short service system, coupled with the spread of education, has done something to correct this impression, your Committee are of opinion that it would at once greatly popularise service in the Army, and improve the status of the soldier, if serving with the Colours could be made, under ordinary circumstances, a condition of appointment for employment in the Departments of the public service; civilians being thus encouraged to regard military service as the avenue, rather than the obstacle, to civil employment under the Crown. Sir, I do not wish to vary those words in any way. I believe they contain the whole key to the present situation with regard to employing soldiers—making a career in the Army "the avenue rather than the obstacle" to civil employment—and I say that with all sincerity. Sir, in the Appendix to this Report is a long list, which I hope some Member of the Government may find leisure to peruse, of the situations which may be filled by Army Reserve men, and discharged soldiers, and a very long list it is, and at the present moment the vast majority of the places mentioned are monopolised by civilians. Sir, I cannot help saying in this connection that public opinion, I think, rather looks to the Government to initiate these reforms at the War Office itself. I think no one can contend that there is anything to sanction the employment of civilians in the more highly-paid posts of that Department, for much of the work, I believe, could be done a great deal better, and certainly much more cheaply, by military clerks. I certainly think that before lecturing other Departments, as the War Office is in the habit of doing, upon the propriety of employing soldiers, it should set the example itself. I might go a great deal higher. I tried to inquire, but I found the position hedged round with difficulties, as to the men who are employed in the Royal Palaces and Royal establishments, but the officials, or Members of the Government, who deal with such matters, or listen to complaints of this kind, so easily take the alarm at any inquiries of this sort. They are so accustomed to having to repel inquiries from people like the hon. Member for Northampton that they suspect that any references of this kind must have the object of reducing the establishment. But the simple recommendation I would make would be to add to the dignity and security of the Crown by filling the hundreds of posts, such as footmen, coachmen, grooms, postillions, gardeners, lamplighters, and so on, from the ranks of old soldiers, instead of civilians. I do not think there is a single foreign Court where this is not done, where you do not constantly come upon men wearing medals on their breasts, who are employed as domestic servants in the different Royal establishments. Now, Sir, in conclusion, I only rejoice that the Government have put the question of what they are to do, before the question of how to do it. I think that the question of how to do it under present conditions may very possibly prove, in the end, insoluble. But the Government have kicked away the ladder and pledged the country, as well as themselves, to a forward military policy. I believe that that will be of the greatest benefit, and that its advantages will be speedily seen in our foreign and Colonial policy, and also in the general aspect of the people at home towards the military profession. I hope that these excellent reforms will be the precursor of stilt more far-reaching measures.

MAJOR W. H. WYNDHAM-QUIN (Glamorgan, S.)

I had the intention of speaking at some length on the subject of Cavalry, more especially on one subject connected with this organisation—the question of general enlistment for particular regiments. I think myself that nothing could be more unfortunate for the discipline and efficiency of the cavalry soldier than to be forced against his will, and at any time to be transferred from one regiment to another. As, however, my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary has conceded so much in this direction this evening, I do not consider that it is any way incumbent upon me to press the question further upon him. I beg, therefore, to join with the previous speaker in congratulating him upon the very able and interesting statement which he has made this evening, and I wish to assure him, on behalf of the Cavalry Service, that the concessions he has made will be joyfully received by its members.


I must be allowed to join with the Members who have expressed satisfaction at the clear and lucid manner with which my right hon. Friend has introduced the changes which it is the intention of the Government to carry out with regard to the Army this year. In doing so, I wish to say that I trust that we may take this as an instalment for the future, to be repeated year by year, so that we may return to a better state of things than what we have had for the last 30 years. I should like to make one or two remarks upon points which the right hon. Gentleman raised in his speech. He told us that the changes which he proposed were strongly supported by the military side of the War Office. Well, I am afraid that I do not attach the same importance to the opinions of the military officials occupying positions in the War Office, because they are not free to express their opinions as officers outside the War Office. My right hon. Friend also alluded to the Reserve. It has been said that every man in the Reserve costs the country only £9 a year. I think that when we consider that to keep up this Reserve you are obliged to keep in the ranks of the Army some 40,000 to 50,000 young men to form this Reserve who would not be of any possible value during the wars at the present day, consequently, for every man in the Reserve you have to keep a young, untrained soldier, whose expense has to be borne in time of peace, the cost of the Reserve is not fairly stilted, and if you wish to arrive at it you must take this fact into consideration. Well, Sir, my right hon. Friend said the Reserve was a sham. I, for one, do not know that anybody has said so, and I have never said so. I have had experience of the Reserve, for I happened to have been in Egypt in 1882 and 1885, and I do not think that more excellent men could have been obtained than those Reserve men. I, unfortunately, have an advantage, or disadvantage, over my right hon. Friend. I have been connected longer than he has with military affairs, and I have served in the old days long before the Reserves were formed. Going back to the time of the Crimea, I know that it is quite true at one period two of the divisions of the Army, from the losses they suffered in battle, were greatly reduced in strength, and their places were taken up by young soldiers from the Militia, but the remainder of the Army, not having lost so many men, retained their complement of old soldiers. The point I wish to make is this: that it only took a very short time before these regiments were restored to a position of efficiency, and at the close of the war England never possessed a finer Army than those 50,000 men who paraded for the inspection of the Russian Commander-in-Chief before we left the Crimea. If anything should happen in India or South Africa, or in any part of the world, which necessitated that a number of battalions should be sent abroad, the great difficulty would now be to find any battalions fit for service, as there is no possibility of making up the battalions without recourse to the Reserve. As has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Belfast, the system of bringing men in from the Reserve will certainly be attended with considerable difficulty, and I hope the measures which it is proposed to take, or which have already been taken, of recalling men from the Reserve to the ranks, or rather of allowing them to return to the ranks, will be largely extended. And I hope that the result will be that the battalions in the course of a few years will have a considerably larger proportion of old soldiers than they have at the present time. Well, now, Sir, at the time the present system was introduced by Lord Cardwell, 30 years ago, I supported it in every way. But that system was never thoroughly carried out, and I do not think it ever can be under the conditions that exist in this country. The result of it has been that we find we are incapable at a moment's notice of sending to any part of the world a reasonable force for the duties of the Empire. Looking back to the past, we had 30 years ago a much more efficient force for the needs of the Empire than we have to-day. In the year 1868 we had 95 battalions abroad and 46 at home. In those days there was no difficulty whatever in finding battalions for the service of the Empire, no such difficulties as we now have. Our system was then suitable to the wants of the Empire, but the system we have now is totally unsuitable. I must say that I regard with extreme anxiety the proposed increase of the number of battalions which has been made to-night, because you will not, for three or four years to come, find that you will have any real increase in the Army. I do think myself that the money would have been better spent if it had been applied to improving the existing battalions and making them more efficient than by creating new battalions. I must raise the very strongest objection to this proposal. However, I said before that the concessions that have been made to us, I trust, in consequence of a strong feeling in the country which has arisen on the subject—a feeling raised in a great measure by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for the Services he has rendered—will be the commencement of a return to the state of the Army which had existed before the present system was introduced.

*COLONEL H. B. H. BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)

I am pleased to hear the proposals which have been made to alter the present condition of things in the Army, especially with regard to those who have left it. The fact is, that Reservists, individually, are far better than the young soldiers in the home battalions, but the nucleus of the home battalions must be able to absorb them. If we take actually 60 per cent. of the home battalions and bring in 60 newcomers, the House can appreciate what that means. I myself think it would be a better distribution, and it might be more serviceable if you put all the men of the home battalions into four companies, and the Reservists into the other four companies. If this were done, I believe they would be better fitted to take the field immediately. That is a point I want to impress upon the Under Secretary for War. With regard to the employment of soldiers after leaving the Service, I am bound to say that I think the more it can be done the better, but I believe you cannot possibly employ all these soldiers. I believe you may teach them trades in the service as a duty, and I think that that would be a great thing for them in order to enable them to get their living. With regard to deferred pay, I should like to urge upon the Under Secretary that every individual soldier should have his right of selecting deferred pay. It would be easier than frequently to put aside a little money in the savings bank. Well, I think we ought to have some veteran Infantry battalions for India, for we are sure to have a lot of men passing through the Army. We cannot find employment for them all, and I think some battalions for India, and elsewhere if required, averaging, perhaps, about thirty years of age, perfectly fitted for that service, and they would relieve us to a considerable extent. Sir, I congratulate the Under Secretary of State for War upon what he has put before the House. It is the foundation of a great improvement.

*GENERAL J. W. LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)

As one of those Members of the Service Committee who pressed our view on the Government of the day, I feel bound to express an opinion in reference to the proposals of the Under Secretary of State for War. Sir, I maintain that our action has been justified, by the speech of the Under Secretary and the proposals he has made, show that he has met us half-way, at any rate. That is a step in advance. I do not think we are prepared to say that it is all we asked for; indeed, we desired to go further. I was rather struck, in reading the memorandum of the Secretary of State for War, with his remark that the portion of the Army which remains at home has ceased to be sufficient either for the purpose of supporting the battalions abroad, providing the force which, in the opinion of the military authorities, it is necessary to maintain for home defence. But, Sir, it seems to me, and to every soldier in the House, that there is still more important duty devolving upon the force in the United Kingdom of which mention is omitted, and that is, that it is to be held in readiness for service abroad as a striking force against the enemies of this country. At the present moment there is not a battalion fit for the Service. The objectionable system has been again endorsed by the Secretary of State for War, who, in his memorandum, says— The existing organisation of the Infantry is based upon the principle that every battalion permanently employed abroad should be supported by a battalion at home. This principle it is intended to maintain. At present home battalions are simply depôts for the regiments abroad; they are not effective, and, from the point of view of economy, a battalion maintained as a depôt to the battalion abroad is the most expensive form of depôt that could be maintained. From that point of view the linked-battalion system is a decided mistake. I go further. I am told that the linked battalions can be made up from the Reservists, and can be made efficient in that way. That is very true as regards numbers. But it has been pointed out by other Service Members that such a battalion is not a fighting unit. Administratively, on paper, it appears a thousand men and so many officers, but it is not a body of men that can go on duty as a battalion. The only battalion for fighting purposes is a battalion composed of officers and men knowing one another thoroughly. The other sort of battalion is not such a force as England would like to send to do its work. We are told that in former wars we had no Reserves, and therefore broke down. But where would our Reserves be if they were put in the fighting line at the commencement of hostilities, and where should we look for reinforcements? It is most undesirable that we should continue the double battalions, and to use the battalions at home, intended for striking purposes, as a depôt for the battalion abroad. With regard to the question of recruits, it is said that a short service of two years would be enough to make a soldier. On the Continent that is true, because there the whole nation practically lives under a system of discipline, and when men are brought to their recruiting stations they are brought as men, and all at one time. We recruit boy by boy separately, and they have been under no restraints of discipline, and we have, first of all, to make our boys into men, and then into soldiers. There is a decided difference, and we must expect to keep our men longer. We cannot expect to make the boy into a man and a soldier in the same time as a Continental nation makes its men into soldiers. I mention that because it is often said that what the Continental nations do we can do; but, again contrary to the Continental practice, as the hon. Member who has just spoken has pointed out, our Reservist is not trained by the officer under whom he is likely to serve, and if war breaks out, it is a mere chance if he knows his officers, and if he should go into action he has not the close touch with his officers that he should have. One more point, and that is with regard to what has been said about the Cavalry. The Under Secretary of State for War has announced that if a Cavalry recruit desires to join a particular regiment abroad, even in India, he is allowed to select it, and is attached to a regiment in England until he can be sent out to it. Is there any reason why the Infantry soldier should not be allowed to do the same thing? Regimental feeling is very strong. Take the case of the regiment I served in in the Crimea. Ten of my brother officers who served there with me have sons serving in that same regiment. This regimental feeling is equally strong among officers and men, and if it is worth while to encourage it in the case of the Cavalry, it is equally worth while to encourage it in the case of the Infantry. One more point, and this with reference to the recruit; I have had some experience with depôts, and I say advisedly that a ration of three-quarters of a pound of meat is too small for a growing lad. When a recruit joins the Service he has to do a large amount of exercise in the open air, and he wants feeding up. An old soldier is fed up and does not need as much food as a boy recruit, and in the case of recruits joining for short service, it is desirable that they should receive the same allowance of food as is given to old soldiers.


I wish to join most heartily in the congratulations offered to the right hon. Gentleman upon the statement he has made to us, and I would venture also to congratulate him upon the degree to which he appears to be conciliating the opinions of a good many of his friends behind him. The Estimates this year are brought before us under circumstances which are unusual and, I believe, almost unprecedented. Ordinarily they are submitted to us on the authority of the Secretary of State for War, who is advised by his responsible councillors in the War Office, both military and civil, and who stands in direct responsibility to this House and to the country. But now, in these days in which we live, the Secretary of State for War appears to be in danger, if, indeed, it has not actually happened, of being overawed by a body of gentlemen occupying seats in this House, and who, at all events, claim credit to-night for having greatly influenced his decisions. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am in this respect an old-fashioned Constitutionalist, I believe in the direct and sole responsibility of the Secretary of State, and I think this theory, if my memory serves me right, has been indicated and exemplified within no very great distance of time, when we have seen a Secretary of State yield to the slightest and most random and casual touch of the House of Commons. Now this is perfectly right, and it is the true recognition of a sound principle. But I confess I have no favour, and never have had any favour, for sundry proposals of late years, which would have had the effect of modifying the responsibility of the Minister. It has been, for instance, often urged, and now I believe the step has been taken, that there should be set up an august body within the Government itself, called, I think, the Council of Defence, or some sonorous name of that kind, which is to superintend the action of the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and so far supersede their authority. We have had discussions before, within the last three or four years, and I have expressed the same opinion, which I now give to the House. If this means merely consultation between those Members of the Government whose departments overlap each other—the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Colonial Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, in some cases, the Home Secretary—then, of course, it is not only desirable, but absolutely necessary in the public interest. But I cannot conceive anything more likely to sap the foundations of true responsibility than to erect some member or members of the Cabinet into a body to supervise the action of the two Ministers who, constitutionally, are responsible to this House. The present Government, when they came into office, took the other view. They created, or resurrected, an arrangement of this sort, and, in order to vivify or electrify into activity this body, they put at its head the Duke of Devonshire, the Lord President of the Council. Some Members of the House, among them the noble Lord the recently elected Member for York, have expressed anxiety to ascertain something about the proceedings of this body. I shall watch with interest the amount of information the noble Lord receives. Again, I remember a proposal, which was made before the Hartington Commission, of which I was a member, for a Consultative Council of veteran officers of the Army and the Navy, who would stand by the side of the two Ministers and tell them what to do. I take both comfort and credit to myself that, when that was proposed in the report, I, not being able altogether to expunge it, by the simple device of moving an Amendment which introduced the potential mood, secured its being entirely conjectural and there- fore unpractical. But here we have another council of defence, an irregular, self-appointed council of defence, not of veterans, and with no pretence of authority. I have so many personal friends among the members concerned, that I am sure they will not imagine I am speaking in any degree disrespectfully of them. On the contrary, it is most natural and most laudable that, having spent, at some period more or less remote, some part of their life in the public service, they should continue to be interested in the old service, and have, therefore, studied the questions affecting them. Nothing could be more patriotic, more praise worthy in every sense, but this hardly qualifies them for a sort of Committee of Public Safety. Even their function as Members of Parliament, added to their other qualities, hardly goes that length. They have been elected here, not because they have served in the Army and Navy, but because of their opinions on Local Veto and Home Rule, and other interesting questions of that sort. I am bound to say that, highly as I esteem my hon. and gallant Friends, yet, if a solemn council of advice was to be elected by popular voice, or chosen as representing ripe military experience, I suspect some of my hon. Friends might not find a place upon that Council. But, then, they are 70, and nearly all the 70 are on one side of the House, and, to use a phrase which becomes familiar with us, after such an incident as has occurred to-day, 70 count 140 in a division. That gives this Party of 70 a very formidable position, makes them a formidable engine; and, accordingly, I was not astonished to see that, not content with comparing views with, and expounding those views to each other, they went to the Prime Minister, behind the back and over the head of the Secretary of State, and enforced their views upon him, the Secretary of State apparently meekly acquiescing. And when the Secretary of State made a speech in the course of the autumn, they immediately called themselves together, and pronounced a solemn judgment upon what he had said, and suggested the emendations that appeared to them expedient. I say that all this is most praiseworthy and patriotic; at the same time, it is a novelty in our experience, and I do not think that it was intended, or ever could have been intended, as forming a part either of the constitution of the House of Commons, or of the Department which concerns itself with military affairs. My hon. Friends will understand that I am speaking in perfect good will and appreciation of their zeal in the public interest. Now, this is the genesis of these Estimates, and we see it in every line of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. My hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast claims that he, and those who think with him as to the need for Army reform, have been successful. That being so, what wonder that we find that parts of the scheme are inconsistent with each other. The right hon. Gentleman manfully stands by the system. I thank him for it, and under the circumstances I admire and praise him, but in one or two things he appears to admit experimental changes which the best friends of the system cannot but fear greatly may prove injurious to it, and at all events will not realise that much expected of them. One or two letters have appeared on the subject during the autumn which I have had occasion to read. I gather from them that there are three outstanding points mainly attacked—in the first place, the terms of service; in the second place, the system of double battalions; and, in the third place, the War Office, whatever the War Office may mean. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean in his speech to-night continually used a little word as to which I should like some further explanation. He used the word "we." "We think" and "we hope," and "our idea is" and "our view is." I want to know who are the "we" of whom he is speaking? It cannot have been—at least, I can hardly conceive it to have been—the Service Members, because my right hon. Friend advocates the extremest form of short service, coupled with a long service Army for India—a most revolutionary proposal, which I cannot believe recommends itself to my hon. and gallant Friends on the other side of the House. To some of them it may, but certainly not as a body. But he, and still more the Member for Belfast, spoke of themselves as reformers. Because they are advocating somewhat extensive changes they therefore call themselves reformers. I am so old in these matters that I think it must be the very whirligig of time that makes such changes. The arguments they vance, the ideas they propound, and the criticisms they make are precisely the arguments, ideas, and criticisms I used to hear between 1868 and 1874 from really reactionary military opinion on this side of the House. The hon. Member for Belfast complains of the War Office changing its mind, apparently. He says that certain arrangements have been made and recommended to the House on the authority of the War Office, and the authority seemed to change. I never expect my hon. Friend to take anything on anybody's authority, but, as a matter of fact, the proposals every year, so far as they have been modified, have been recommended as the arrangement that seemed best at the time. Naturally no one could pretend to think that there was anything like infallible excellence about any of these arrangements. We had, for instance, a term of service, a term of six years and six; and then changed it to seven years and five—an adaptation to suit the special circumstances of India. So on with all the other changes which can be pointed out. We know that for the last 25 years the whole thing has been necessarily tentative; and it would be very rash if anyone were to contend that what is suitable for the particular circumstances and requirement of the Army now would be the best system ten or 20 years hence. As to the terms of enlistment, if the House will bear with me for a few moments, I will repeat what I have often said from this Table on one side or the other—that, according to my idea, in a voluntary system of service, your terms of service ought to be as voluntary as possible. The soldier ought to feel himself at almost every stage of his career just as free as is consistent with discipline and the requirements of the Service. Periodically there should be a door open to him, allowing him either to pass into the Reserve, or to remain with the Colours; but I may point out that in the public interest a very heavy weight should be put into the scale to induce him, at an early period, to enter the Reserve. As to the individual proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, the doing away with stoppages is obviously a desirable thing, and, probably, if one looks back, one would say it should have been done before. Still, better late than never. There has always been this impediment in the way: that it would cost a very large sum of money, and if your object is to get another class, and, as has often been assumed, a higher class of men into the Army—to tap, as it were, a higher stratum of society, I doubt very much if the expenditure will be effectual for that purpose. It does, however, do away with that hideous old suspicion of a certain degree of fraud and misunderstanding, which I believe to be very much exaggerated. Still we, of course, wish to avoid even the appearance of anything of the kind, and besides, we must welcome any simplification of the accounts. I come now to the deferred pay question. The right hon. Gentleman quoted me as one of the originators of deferred pay, but it was introduced by Lord Cranbrook—then Mr. Gathorne-Hardy—on the recommendation of Lord Airey's Committee. I am bound to say that I greatly doubt the evils which we have heard of as attaching to deferred pay. I greatly doubt if there was the squandering of the £21 we are told of; on the contrary, I have been told that a very small sum was spent in the way of jollification by a soldier with his comrades, and that the great part of the money was a most necessary and grateful assistance to him for the first six months or so after his return to civil life. We have the strong evidence given before Lord Wantage's Committee that the soldiers themselves laid great store by it and valued it; and I think it would not be an unwise thing to endeavour to ascertain the opinion of the soldiers now, before doing away with deferred pay. You have another set of men altogether since the Wantage Commission sat, and it is desirable to know whether the same state of feeling continues. Would a large majority of the men, if consulted, oppose any interference with deferred pay? You are now going to give £7 instead of £21. Well, £7 is, if I may use a colloquialism, just enough for a drink, and not enough for anything else. The soldier is much more likely to spend the whole of the £7 in a jollification. If he had a larger sum, he would think it worth while to keep it, but he would not deem it worth while to incur the ill-will of his comrades for the sake of so small a sum as £7. That is one of the concessions which the right hon. Gentleman has made to the pressuro put upon him with a view to induce men to go on with longer service, instead of going into the Reserve. There is no one here who will say that he is in favour of long service. Every one here is in favour of at least a nominally short service. But a great many of the writers in the newspapers apparently would like to have a short-service Army full of long-service men. I want a real short-service Army which would lead up to a substantial and effective Reserve. If you take away this large inducement to go to the Reserve you will keep a large number of men with the colours, undoubtedly, but they will not be of the best age for service. They will go on, it is said, for 12 years. But are you to take a man from civil life for 12 years, and then dismiss him with only one pound gratuity for each of the 12 years he has served? You cannot prevent him in honesty and fairness, from going on to a pension; and then he will remain with the colours when he is quite past the best years of his life. He will bring upon you the expense of his pension; he will probably be a married man—you cannot expect a man to remain unmarried for so long a time—and you will, therefore, bring upon you the very evils from which short service is calculated to deliver you.


May I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the case of the Marines?


I know that is a comparison which is constantly being brought forward, but the circumstances are so different in the case of the Marines, that it is not analogous; but I have not time now to go into that argument. The next change is as to the extra liability of Reserve men when they first leave the colours. I have always been entirely in favour of that proposal as furnishing us with a ready means of fitting out those small expeditions which cause so much trouble at the present time. The next proposal is as to the three years' men. I approve of any amount of enlisting for three years only, which is not consistent with the efficient maintenance of foreign battalions. But these three years' men are not to get the benefit of this stoppage arrangement. Why handicap them by so heavy a weight? Who would enlist for three years to serve alongside another man who is not serving very much longer, but who is getting 3d. a day more? Unless this experiment is a success, I see nothing to set against the tremendous loss to the Reserve and the overbalance to the regiment, caused by the abolition of deferred pay; and, unless you give these three years' men the advantage of this abolition of stoppages, I am afraid that the experiment cannot be expected to succeed. The last change is with regard to the young soldier. The young soldier is not to get the advantage of this relief from his stoppage until he is 19 years of age, and then, I believe, he has to prove how old he is. I do not very much care how old a man is. What does it matter whether a man is 18, 19, or 20, if he has all the physical stamina and capacities of higher age? I would sooner have an over-grown boy than an under-grown man. But here, again, we have to consider the effect upon recruiting. You are going to have a very large demand for recruits during the next three or four years. Is it likely to conduce to recruiting that when the recruit is invited to join you say to him, "You are not now going to get any deferred pay, and you will not be relieved from stoppage, but you will have to pay for your groceries and so forth?" And this, as the hon. and gallant Member who spoke last said, at the very age and period of service when the soldier is most in want of an ample dietary. I look, therefore, upon that part of the scheme with considerable suspicion. No doubt there is a desire that the young soldiers should be shown as boys on the Estimates, but it seems to me that there is no need for that. There is no deception of the House of Commons or of anybody else in the matter. The House of Commons has full information as to the age of the Army. We know there are a certain number of men in every regiment who are under the age for being sent to India, or being used for other specific purposes, but who yet may be useful in certain cases, just as useful as the others possibly, and I do not see why they should be penalised if they are doing as good service as their older comrades. The fear that I have as to these arrangements in globo is, first of all, that you will have too many old men serving with the colours and too few of the best age; secondly that you will greatly diminish the Reserve; and, thirdly, I apprehend the effect upon recruiting. The recruiting class are a very suspicious class, as we know; the soldier is a very suspicious man himself, and the class from which he comes is also suspicious. I pass to the second subject, which has been mainly the point of attack on the present system, and that is the double battalions. The double battalion system was really originally adopted as the best thing that could be done in the circumstances of the country, owing to the necessity of consulting local, and especially county, susceptibilities. If it had not been for that the organisation adopted would have been either a three or four battalion organisation, and I believe it would have been better to have gone to that at once. But everyone who has experience of the world is aware how strong these local prejudices and susceptibilities are, and how necessary it is to consider them. And here I join issue with the hon. Member for Belfast, and with many of his friends. Elasticity is of the very essence of an effective Army for our purposes. To put a man in a small unit like a battalion and say, "You shall never go out of that battalion"—to make a battalion, as the right hon. Gentleman said, a watertight compartment—is perfectly fatal to the spirit of an Army such as ours. We hear a good deal about esprit de corps, and I do not want to do anything to diminish it, but though I know what esprit means, what is corps? When people talk and write so glibly about esprit de corps, what do they mean? What the hon. Member means is esprit de bataillon. But in the Army you have two rifle regiments as full of efficiency and as proud of their quality and traditions as any part of your forces; yet with them it is not esprit de bataillon but esprit de régiment. Again, if you go to the Guards, to the Household Brigade, you have a feeling of military association of the very best kind which has nothing to do with individual battalions, and you have also perfect efficiency. Is the Royal Artillery deficient in a proper martial spirit? There may be rivalries for the moment between one battery and another, as there may be between one company and another; but esprit de corps in the true sense does not exist except in the whole regiment. Surely that is enough. The double battalions where they have been worked loyally, faithfully, and well, have established a new esprit de corps for themselves which is quite as strong as that which existed in the individual battalion before. Now the proposal is that even they should be broken up instead of an attempt being made to weld them still more together, in order to have a larger field for transfer, and therefore avoid some of the evils that have been pointed out. The proposal is to undo what has been done. Take, for instance a case everyone talks about, one which comes closely home to me personally—the instance of the Gordon Highlanders at Dargai. The particular battalion which gained the glory was the Stirlingshire battalion, and if you are going to untie the battalions, are you going to deprive my Stirlingshire Regiment of the glory of that Gordon Highlanders' charge? No; these are incidents of a very brilliant character, but, after all, only accidents in the system. We must humour sentimental considerations as much as possible, but we cannot altogether be governed by them. Then, of course, there is the further consideration, which I appreciate—the irksome and thankless nature of the task of the officer who drills one set of men in one battalion and parts with them to another battalion. If you look no further than the barrack walls that is undoubtedly vexatious, but it ought to be remembered by the officers that what one battalion loses is gained by the other, and that the interests of the Service generally are served. The system has worked, on the whole, well, although you will always find cases which lead to unequal results, and I will tell the House why. We have changed the establishment of battalions year after year, for a long time feeling about for the best and most convenient establishment for the home battalions. They were raised one year, and at another they were lowered. A large number of recruits or a small number was taken on, and a battalion in this way might be reduced to a low ebb. That involves great provision on the part of those who administer the Army, and I think in recent years evils have been avoided as much as possible. I come now to the third point of attack. A great deal has been said as to the War Office, and one almost begins to wonder what "the War Office" meant. We are told that the officials, or some of them, are fossils only fit to be put into the British Museum. As for the military officers, I can only say that they have comprised some of the most distinguished men in the British Army. If there are better officers, I do not know where they are to be found; and these officers have been close to the Secretary of State. These officers have not only a large voice, but an overwhelming voice, in the control of the affairs of the Army. And then there are the civilians. It is sometimes said that if the soldiers had their own way everything would be right, but that, unfortunately, there are civilians who distort the mind of the Secretary of State, and prevent the right thing being done. I only wish those who have spoken disrespectfully of the leading civilians would have half an hour's conversation with any one of them, and if, at the end of that half-hour, they still thought there was a fossil somewhere they would be convinced it was not the civilian from the War Office. My right hon. Friend will bear me out when I say that nothing can exceed the knowledge, the ingenuity, the adaptibility, the extraordinary acquaintance with all the history of the Army, and the public spirit and intelligence of the gentlemen to whom I refer. There is, no doubt, a certain amount of friction in any office such as that, and there may be at the War Office more such friction than usual, and for this reason. The Civil and Military Departments were originally separate, and occupied separate buildings, treating each other as distinct offices. But 30 years ago the Military Department was brought directly under the Secretary of War, and removed under the same roof. There existed, however, a certain unconscious friction which lasted for many years; but I am glad to say that that feeling has now almost entirely disappeared, and I have not for a long time observed any of the jealousy and susceptibility which were so observable a few years ago. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of decentralisation. I am all in favour of decentralisation also; but it must be borne in mind that in all matters affecting the spending of money, it is absolutely necessary that, although the sanction of an independent authority may not be required beforehand, yet an account should be rendered to such independent authority. On the whole subject, Sir, I cannot help remarking the fact that no allusion has been made, and no word of complaint uttered, with regard to the large increase in the number of men, and the large increase of the cost which these Estimates involve. Now, the increase in the number of men is necessary on account of the increased strain on the Army. That strain has been going on for the last ten or fifteen years, and we have always trusted that something would happen to relieve it; instead of that, it has become more intense. But let me point out to the House of Commons that that strain is the effect, not of any caprice of the Secretary of State for War; it is the effect of the policy of the country. If you have a policy which involves the maintenance of a larger force abroad, you must not blame the War Office for coming for a larger force. If the increase is objected to, your objections should be addressed to the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office, not to the War Minister. But a heavy burden is laid on the country, both by the taking of so many men from the civil service of the country, and also by the money cost. It is not too much, I am satisfied, for the patriotism of our people, but it shows the urgent necessity of caution in policy, seeing the great sacrifice that any venturesome policy would entail.


I am, fortunately, absolved, Sir, from doing much more now than adding my own to the many and well-deserved congratulations which have already been showered on my right hon. Friend near me. My right hon. Friend has not only been fortunate enough to make a statement, the ability of which everybody recognises, but he has had the still rarer fortune of apparently convincing the most diverse opinions in this House that really acceptable measures of reform have at last been contrived; because, as I gather, the right hon. Baronet, who wishes, indeed, for far more drastic reforms, is quite prepared to see in this an instalment, and the right, hon. Gentleman opposite, who probably differs more widely from the right hon. Baronet than any other Army reformer in the House, has blessed the scheme in its main out-lines. In fast, the contest rather now is as to who is really the author of the scheme, and who, if the real truth were known, deserves the credit of having devised this great change in our Army system. I feel certain my right hon. Friend is too wise a man to desire to contest with anybody the glory of having devised this plan, and certainly, if I may speak for my colleagues in the Government, I would say that we will be glad to hand over to anybody who will care to take it the credit of this scheme, provided in return the gentlemen to whom we give the credit will give us their support in passing it through the House of Commons. There are two or three relatively small points to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite took objection. He desires (in this differing, I think, from several hon. and gallant Gentlemen on that side of the House) to see the present system of deferred pay retained, or, if he does not go that length, to see the experiment made before the present system is abandoned. May I point out what has perhaps escaped his notice, that the new system can hardly be brought in without our being, as it were, involuntarily obliged to try such an experiment as he desires? I do not know whether my right hon. Friend stated it, but it is the intention of the Government to offer the men now serving the alternative of having the increased pay for the future, without, of course, the deferred pay corresponding to that, or adhering to the present system. The choice will be given to them, and that in itself involves an experiment of the very kind which I think the right hon. Gentleman would like to see instituted. My right hon. Friend reminds me of a fact which I ought to state, not for the information of the House, because I do not think any hon. Member would have any doubt about it, but lest there should be any mistake outside amongst the soldiers themselves. Of course, no man will forfeit any part of the deferred pay which he has already earned. That is his by right, and there can be no question of tampering with it in any way. The right hon. Gentleman also criticised that part of the plan which proposed to refuse to the men serving for only three years the additional 3d. which every competent soldier over 19 years will be entitled to under the new scheme. The reason for that, as regards, at any rate, all the men of the Army except the Guards, who stand in a somewhat different position, is plain. In the first instance, it is clear that if every man serving for three years gets as much pay at the beginning of his service as a man who engages for seven years, no man would engage to serve for seven years. If the men who only join for three years get all the advantages which the seven years' men would have, why should they bind themselves for the longer period? The result would be that every man would engage for three years only, and, if they did that, you would find yourselves entirely deprived of the requisite number of drafts to send out to India or for foreign service. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman would welcome this state of things, for he desires to see short service only for this country and long service for India; but, obviously, until you adopt this plan you could not have the system of the right hon. Baronet; you must have a certain number of men to make it possible to send them out for service in India. As regards the Guards, I may inform those of my hon. and gallant Friends who have referred to this point, that it is under the consideration of the War Office, and commanding officers will be consulted as to the course which should be adopted. There were one or two closely connected points upon which the hon. Gentleman bestowed some criticism. You ought not, he said, to defer this full pay of 1s. until the soldier gets to 19 years of age; it is a privilege that should attend the beginning of his military career; and he went on to say he preferred a well-grown boy to an under-grown man. Well, of course, there is a great deal to be said for that view, but there are other considerations; you must have a certain standard of size, of height, chest measurement, and so forth. I do not claim to speak with any knowledge, but I suspect that my hon. Friend is medically wrong when he says a well-grown boy has the same stamina as a well-developed man of more mature years. I should doubt very much if a boy of 18, though coming up to the standard of measurement, is as fit as a man for service in India.


I did not speak of India.


I should say, at all events, he would not be so valuable a soldier for general purposes. It must be remembered that the additional pay will cost a considerable sum, and it does seem rather absurd to ask the British taxpayer to pay an additional amount for a soldier not fit to do all the work the country has a right to expect from him. I do not think there are any other points to mention, except to say that all these things are subject (I am not sure whether my hon. Friend made this clear) to keeping the Reserve in a state of efficiency. It is manifest, we having introduced so many different methods of enlisting, the elasticity of the system is so great that we cannot allow it to work automatically, we must keep a watch on it and see that a certain number of men pass through the ranks to the Reserve. The War Office will be responsible for this, and there ought to be no difficulty in carrying it into effect. Sir, I do not think that anything further need be said from this Bench. I have taken a great interest in this subject, and I have had the advantage, or disadvantage, of approaching it with no personal experience of military life. Consequently, I have no prejudice in favour of one system more than another; and, if I speak my mind candidly, the thing that has struck me—I was going to say with some pain—or at all events it carries with it some inconvenience—is the diversity of opinion which one cannot help seeing between the regimental soldiers, if I may so describe them, and those engaged in the organisation and management of the Army as a whole. I imagine it is inevitable, but it is none the less unfortunate. I have the profoundest sympathy with regimental officers; I firmly believe in their esprit de corps; and I conceive that if once officers lost interest in their regiments, if they, as it were, turned their gaze simply on the Army as a whole, forgetting their regiment, half their value would be lost. They are bound, from the necessities of their position, not merely to remember and cherish the traditions of their regiment, but they are bound to take a pride in their regiment, and, undoubtedly, the working of the linked battalion system in recent years must have been absolutely heartbreaking to a man who has had the credit of his regiment—I do not say of his regiment, but of his battalion—at heart. I think that while that is true, it is true also, perhaps, that regimental officers have not always remembered that their regiment or battalion formed a unit in a larger whole; and the problems with which those who are responsible have to deal are extremely difficult, and such as are not met with in any other Army in the world, and it is almost impossible that they should be satisfactorily solved in every way. Some difficulty, some friction, there has been; some difficulty, some friction, there must, I fear, still be in the future; but I think—I am sure—that every regimental officer who listened to my hon. Friend's statement tonight, or who reads it in the morning, will see that the Government have set themselves to work to diminish, as far as possible, anything that can be called a legitimate grievance. I hope that that diversity of opinion and feeling to which I have referred, and which I am sure does exist, at least to a certain extent, may from the date of these great changes be largely diminished, if not wholly avoided, and that in future all men connected with the administration of the Army, from the time they join their regiments to the time they happen to become part of that much abused body, the War Office in Pall Mall, will always be united by a common view not only of the duties of the Army, but as to the methods by which alone an Army such as ours, organised for such various and different purposes, can be made to carry out the wishes and necessities of the country. I think my hon. Friend may feel satisfied with the Debate that has taken place, and, if I do not misread the views of the House, we may now hope that you, Sir, may be allowed to leave the Chair, and that any further discussion of the details may be permitted to take place in Committee. That will give my hon. Friend an opportunity of dealing with some of the smaller points of the Debate as they arise, and will, I think, on the whole, conduce to the general convenience.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

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